As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden floated making Silicon Valley giants legally responsible for user material on their platforms. His resolution on the issue is poised to face an early test when his administration takes over trade talks with U.S. allies.
Like President Donald Trump, Biden has called for the repeal of a crucial set of liability protections that shield online companies from lawsuits over the user content they host. But he has yet to say whether his White House will push to enshrine those legal safeguards in U.S. trade pacts, something the Trump administration has continued to do even amid the president’s own attacks against that liability shield.
The issue has emerged as a bipartisan flashpoint in Washington, with a broad cast of lawmakers ranging from Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) calling on U.S. trade officials to erase that language from their deals. Lawmakers say baking those protections into trade pacts could make it more difficult to revamp the legal shield at the federal level. Congress is considering changes to the law, known as Section 230, amid heightened scrutiny of how tech companies police user material on their sites.
While Biden has called for upending those legal protections — his most aggressive proposal targeting the tech industry to date — lawmakers, foreign leaders, industry executives and advocacy groups told POLITICO in interviews that his administration’s stance on the trade front will signal how serious he is about following through.
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