Revised NAFTA agreement imposes U.S. internet rules on Canada


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On December 5, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was pushing the Trump administration to strip out sweeping legal protections for online platform giants such as Facebook and Google in the yet to be ratified USMCA. The USMCA is the name of the trade agreement replacing NAFTA. The Democrats control the House and the USMCA could not be ratified unless Democrats in the House passed it.

The legal protections in question, codified in the U.S. in Section 230 of its Communications Decency Act (CDA), shield online platforms from lawsuits related to user content and protect them from legal challenges stemming from how they moderate content.

The S. 230 provisions ensure that platforms such as Facebook and Google are treated as platform “intermediaries” as opposed to “publishers” such as the Toronto Star or Globe and Mail. Such publishers can be held legally responsible for the material in their print and online versions. Facebook and Google cannot be held legally responsible for the content posted on their platforms under S. 230 of the CDA.

The big Internet firms had lobbied hard to include the legal immunity language in the revised trade agreement, seeing it as a way to extend to Mexico and Canada the broad umbrella of legal protection they enjoy in the U.S.

That’s why removal of the provisions in the revised NAFTA would have been a huge blow for big technology companies like Facebook and Google.