O’Rourke targets tech’s legal shield

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released a sweeping gun violence prevention plan on Friday, proposing a set of changes that he said could “connect the dots” between online radicalization and real-world violence.

O’Rourke’s proposal makes him the first presidential candidate to officially lay out plans to hold tech companies accountable for the proliferation of hate speech on their platforms. And his plan comes nearly two weeks after the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, was linked to an anti-immigrant manifesto posted online.

The former Texas congressman’s plan would require top social media companies to remove hateful content from their websites, opening up the companies up to lawsuits if they fail to do so.

As it stands, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — known as tech’s legal shield — websites largely are not liable for their content moderation decisions and what users post on their platforms.

O’Rourke’s proposal would remove Section 230 protections for platforms that do not make an effort to create and uphold policies against hate speech.

Why it’s important: O’Rourke is the first candidate to make altering Section 230 a key part of a policy proposal. There has been growing talk of changes to Section 230 from lawmakers in both parties.