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Human rights, racial justice groups warn against 'gutting' Section 230

The coalition of more than 70 organizations is arguing that the Biden administration and lawmakers should not respond to the Capitol Hill riots by "gutting" the law underpinning the modern internet.

"Gutting Section 230 would make it more difficult for web platforms to combat the type of dangerous rhetoric that led to the attack on the Capitol," the groups wrote in a letter on Wednesday. "And certain carveouts to the law could threaten human rights and silence movements for social and racial justice that are needed now more than ever."

The letter's signatories include an array of organizations representing sex workers, whose livelihoods were harmed by the last carveout to Section 230, as well as lawyers, and academic and LGBTQ rights groups. They are asking Congress to review the effects of FOSTA-SESTA, the last Section 230 reform, and pursue tech accountability measures including "federal data privacy legislation and enforcement of antitrust and civil rights law."

"We concur that Congress should act to address the harms of Big Tech through meaningful legislative action on data privacy, civil rights and others fronts, and enforcement of existing antitrust laws," they wrote. "But uncareful efforts to poke holes in Section 230 could result in the exact opposite outcome."

Democrats and Republicans, fuming at the role the major social companies played in enabling the Capitol Hill riots, have pledged to pursue Section 230 reforms in the new Congress.

"The role of platforms should rightfully be scrutinized as we assign blame for the violent attack on the Capitol," said Erin Shields, a national organizer with digital rights group MediaJustice. "But repealing Section 230 would only further entrench tech companies as judge and jury over content on the Internet, a role they've proven ill equipped to perform without harming the speech and safety of people of color and other marginalized voices. Solutions need to be focused on breaking up tech's concentration of power, wealth, and control. Anything short of that is insufficient."

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