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Proposed Bill Would Hold Tech Platforms Accountable For Wrongful Death

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Proposed SAFE TECH ACT Could Help Safeguard Against Fraud, Abuse, and Exploitation of Online Users

With so many more individuals, organizations, and private companies using mostly online-based and platform-mediated channels to reach communities and consumers, many of us have started to question the safeguards and civil rights protections regarding who is responsible for abusing or exploiting those involved, especially in moments of tragedy. In response, the SAFE TECH ACT has been introduced by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and rallied for by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and designed to make it easier for targets of fraud, exploitation, and harassment to sue online and social media platforms that host abusive or harmful content.

According to the office of Sen. Warner, “Service providers’ disregard of the misuse of their platforms has produced more than just consumer harm: in many cases, continued – and reckless – inaction of platforms has facilitated pervasive online harassment of users. With abusers often shielded by online anonymity and platforms’ neglect of meaningful reporting tools, victims are in large measure left to fend for themselves.”

Online Service Providers Need to Address Problems or Face Potential Civil Liability

The bill, if passed, could reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which currently shields tech platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and even colossal e-commerce leaders like Amazon, from any personal injury or wrongful death action that might seek to hold them responsible for their reckless and sustained inaction as their tools are repeatedly misused. The SAFE TECH Act would force online service providers to address these problems finally. Sen. Warner says the Act does so by making clear that Section 230:

  • Doesn’t apply to ads or other paid content – ensuring that platforms cannot continue to profit as their services are used to target vulnerable consumers;
  • Doesn’t bar injunctive relief – allowing victims to seek court orders where misuse of a provider’s services is likely to cause irreparable harm;
  • Doesn’t impair the enforcement of civil rights laws – maintaining the vital and hard-fought protections from discrimination even when internet platforms mediate activities or services;
  • Doesn’t interfere with laws that address stalking/cyber-stalking or harassment and intimidation based on protected classes– ensuring that victims of abuse and targeted harassment can hold platforms accountable when they directly enable harmful activity;
  • Doesn’t bar wrongful death actions – allowing the family of a decedent to bring suit against platforms where they may have directly contributed to a loss of life;
  • Doesn’t bar suits under the Alien Tort Claims Act – potentially allowing victims of platform-enabled human rights violations abroad to seek redress in U.S. courts against U.S.-based platforms.

The law would also allow stalking, harassment, and intimidation targets to sue big tech companies when they believe their online sites helped directly enable the harm. Families pursuing wrongful death suits for deceased loved ones could also seek to hold online platforms accountable if they thought their hosting played a role.

Seek Expert Legal Counsel from Chicago’s Levin & Perconti Law Firm

Suppose you find yourself in a situation where an online media or social community platform participated in harm to you or someone you care about. In that case, we advise you to reach out to an experienced attorney at Levin & Perconti for support and legal guidance. Levin & Perconti is a nationally renowned law firm concentrating on all types of personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death litigation. Please contact us for a free and confidential consultation at 312-332-2872 or call us toll-free in Chicago at 877-374-1417.