‘Death And Destruction’: Sen. Dick Durbin Goes After Internet ‘Suicide Pact’

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to be amended or repealed to fight drug trafficking.

“I think Section 230 has become a suicide pact. We have basically said to these companies, you are absolved from liability. Make money. And they’re at it in overtime. Deaths result from it and we have a responsibility; I think the committee really spoke to it,” Durbin said Wednesday. “We may see it differently, but on a bipartisan basis, and I’ve spoken to Sen. Graham, and I want to make sure that when we agree it also is publicized. We both feel very strongly that this committee needs to be a venue to take on this issue.”


Durbin questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland about the Justice Department’s activities in combating drug trafficking, most notably fentanyl, during a hearing intended to provide oversight of DOJ.

“The cartels that are creating these pills and that are distributing them within the U.S. are the most horrid individuals you can imagine, and unfortunately they are doing it on social media, advertising as if they are prescription pills. So the DEA has a program. I’m going out to the social media companies and urging them to advise the DEA when they see this and advising-” Garland said before the chairman cut him off.

“Ms. Whigham told me that when they approached the social media companies and ask for the algorithm so that they can get to the root cause of this death and destruction, the social media platforms plead Section 230 and refuse,” Durbin responded. (RELATED: Josh Hawley Proposes Bill Holding Tech Companies Accountable For Harm To Children)

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ensures that internet content hosts and providers, like social media sites and search engines, are not held legally responsible from the actions of their users. The provision also ensures that content hosts will not be held liable for “good faith” restrictions of “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” content. (RELATED: Revenge Porn And The Tricky, Delicate Balance Between Freedom Of Speech And Freedom Of Privacy)

Although both Republicans and Democrats want to amend the statute, they generally disagree on what reforms to make. Republicans argue that eliminating or modifying Section 230 would give users recourse if they are banned or suspended from platforms, while Democrats want tech firms to moderate and remove more content.