American politicians have been questioning whether internet companies should be held liable for the content they allow, and two of those companies will soon address those concerns directly. Two House subcommittees are holding a joint online content moderation hearing on October 16th where Google IP policy head Katherine Oyama and Reddit CEO Steve Huffman (above) will speak as witnesses. The hearing will both explore existing practices and help determine if customers are "adequately protected under current laws," including the Communications Decency Act's Section 230 safe harbor protections.
The hearing will also include experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Alliance to Counter Crime Online, Boston University and UC Berkeley.
There's no guarantee this will lead to legislation. However, it's entirely possible that existing laws will face a challenge from both sides of the aisle. Democrats like Beto O'Rourke have argued that internet firms should lose immunity if they "knowingly promote" speech that fosters hate and violence. At the same time, Republicans like Josh Hawley have promoted legislation that would strip large sites of immunity if they demonstrate political bias.
Google and Reddit, meanwhile, are likely to fight back. The Internet Association (of which Google and Reddit are members) has argued that conditional safe harbor would force companies to make an "impossible choice" between hosting vile speech and losing the ability to moderate illegal material like extremism. In other words, they'll likely use the hearing to defend Section 230 and otherwise protect the status quo.