Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., whose district includes much of California’s Silicon Valley, said today she sees a need for Congress to reexamine Federal law that provides immunity from liability for internet service and content providers that publish information provided by third parties.

Speaking at an event organized by Bloomberg Government, Rep. Eshoo indicated that her concerns are rooted in the impact of social media and other content that inspires or leads to violence such as the Oct. 27 murders at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Under existing law–specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996–immunity from liability is provided for users and providers of an “interactive computer service” that publishes information provided by third parties.

Rep. Eshoo, who from 2011 to 2017 was ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said today that “we have to examine Section 230” to see if it needs to be changed. “We have to think very long and very hard about it,” she said, adding that “words matter” on social media and other online services.

“There’s nothing wrong with social platforms…But if they are involved with hate then we have to examine it, and we shouldn’t be afraid to,” she said.

“There is an awful lot of work to be done in the area,” Rep. Eshoo said of online hate speech and violence, and expressed optimism that Congress might be able to improve the situation. “We can thread this needle,” she said.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.