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S. 2228: DISCOURSE Act

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 24, 2021.

Disincentivizing Internet Service Censorship of Online Users and Restrictions on Speech and Expression Act or the DISCOURSE Act

This bill limits federal liability protections for a user or provider of an interactive computer service (e.g., a social media company) related to content provided by third parties. It also requires a provider that offers its service through a mass-market offering to the public to disclose information about its content moderation activities.

The bill removes liability protections (sometimes referred to as section 230 protection) for a provider with a dominant market share if the provider

promotes or suppresses a viewpoint through its content moderation, including by affecting a content creator's revenue; uses automated processes (e.g., algorithms) to target and amplify content provided to a user who has not requested or searched for the content; or solicits, funds, modifies, or otherwise contributes to content. Currently, a provider retains liability protections even when it restricts access to materials that it considers objectionable. Under this bill, a provider retains protections if restricted materials fall, based on an objectively reasonable belief, into a prescribed list of harmful or unlawful categories.

Additionally, the liability protections shall not apply to providers that (1) restrict access to content in a manner that burdens the exercise of religion, or (2) fail to comply with an existing requirement to notify customers of options for limiting a minor's access to harmful online content (e.g., parental controls).

The bill also changes legal procedures related to the liability protections, including by specifying that the protection serves as an affirmative defense.