House Committee on Energy and Commerce Section 230 hearings 12/1/2021

House committee hearing today on Section 230 considers Safe Tech Act as well as three other bills

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce holds a hearing Wednesday Dec. 1 2021 on four bills including the Safe Tech Act, HR 3421. The title is HOLDING BIG TECH ACCOUNTABLE: TARGETED REFORMS TO TECH'S LEGAL IMMUNITY. This is another hearing about Section 230.

The primary link for the hearing is this.

The bills discussed are the following: (Check Thomas for 117th Congress).

H.R. 2154, the 'Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act'

H.R. 3184, the Civil Rights Modernization Act of 2021

H.R. 3421, the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism, and Consumer Harms Act or the SAFE TECH Act

H.R. 5596, the Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act of 2021.

The two panels comprise the following:


Panel I

Frances Haugen

Former Facebook Employee

Rashad Robinson


Color of Change

James Steyer

Founder and CEO

Common Sense Media

Kara Frederick

Research Fellow in Technology Policy

The Heritage Foundation

Panel II

Hon. Karen Kornbluh

Director, Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative and Senior Fellow

The German Marshall Fund of the United States

Carrie Goldberg, Esq.


C.A. Goldberg Law Firm, PLLC

Matthew F. Wood

Vice President of Policy and General Counsel

Free Press Action

Mary Anne Franks, J.D., D.Phil.

Professor of Law and Michael R. Klein Distinguished Scholar Chair, University of Miami

School of Law

President and Legislative & Tech Policy Director, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

Eugene Volokh

Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law

UCLA School of Law

Daniel A. Lyons

Professor & Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Boston College Law School

Nonresident Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

There is an introductory memorandum by chairman Frank Pallone (and one other statement). The memo gives a detailed history of many major court cases. It also discusses the four bills (linked in the committee URL). The statement limits the exclusion in the Safe Tech Act to 'paid advertisements', not including other user-paid hosting. Sponsor Donad McEachin (D-Va) confirmed that in his question, and Ms. Castor from FL noted that the act depended on the original content, not algorithms.

Note that there are two panels, with a total of nine speakers.

Ms. Haugen emphasized repeatedly that algorithms naturally send more extreme content to the same person, when the person may not want it.

Haugen also noted that whistleblowers from privately held companies don't have legal protections.

Haugen also said that censorship should not be aimed at individual users for political reasons.

Mr. Robinson claimed that Facebook policies tend to ignore the needs of persons in communities of color in the way ads or content is directed. He also claimed that tech companies don't higher adequate numbers of people of color.

Should your hurt feelings interfere with my free speech? (Mr. Pence, Indiana).

One questioner noted that most executives in tech companies don't have children. Or those that do don't allow their kids ro use social media!

Frederick mentioned that infrastructure companies like AWS had started to censor (Parler case), especially after Charlottesville.

Matthew Wood mentioned the 'received payment' clause in the Safe Tech Act and hinted that it might be too ambiguous. Could it incorporate all hosted content after all?

Dr. Franks spoke as if user-generated content produces a 'moral hazard' compared to other media industries.

(My note): There is a recent constitutional challenge to FOSTA (and the weakening of 230), and new proposals for anti-SLAPP laws (Sept 2022). Details forthcoming.

(Posted: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 2:30 PM)