Sen. Lindsey Graham Warns Big Tech It May Lose Protections

( – South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had harsh words for big social media on May 4th when he said Congress may punish big tech companies who stand in the way of protecting children from sexual content online.

Graham (R-SC) has introduced the EARN IT Act, co-sponsored by Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal. The bill would alter a piece of federal law referred to as “Section 230,” part of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 provides social media companies some protection from liability for the content that users and others publish on their networks. 

The EARN IT Act would add exceptions to those protections, and those changes would hold companies liable for content inappropriate for minors. 

Graham said he wants to modify Section 230, which he believes gives too much to social media companies. He did acknowledge that his bill is not likely to get far, given the power of big social media and tech company lobbyists on Capitol Hill.  But if taming that section of the law does not work, he said, he’ll go after the entire section to strike it down completely. 

Graham originally introduced the EARN IT Act in 2019. The bill would give individuals the power to sue online media companies if those companies distributed images or videos of the complainant being sexually abused. There is currently no legal mechanism for such people to file suit. 

Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not advance the bill to a floor vote in 2019. Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not brought it to the floor either. The bill does appear to have support from both sides of the aisle, at least within the committee. 

Graham said to social media companies that he’s willing to work with them, but that “you’re going to lose eventually.” He urged companies to sit down with lawmakers to figure out regulations each side can live with. If they are not willing to do that, Graham said, “We’re gonna unleash the courtrooms of America against your business model.”