September 29, 2020

Manchin, Cornyn Bill To Require Companies Report Illicit Online Drug Sales

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the See Something, Say Something Online Act to stop the illicit sale of opioids and other drugs online by amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to require companies report illegal activity on their online platforms.

“When Section 230 was written into law in 1996, the Internet was completely different. Today, nearly all of us carry the Internet in our pocket, using our phones to call cabs, buy groceries, and message friends and family across town and across the globe, but the same technology that has made us more connected has also made it easier to conduct illegal activity online,” said Senator Manchin. “Each year, authorities seize enough fentanyl to kill every American four times over, much of it ordered over the Internet and sent by mail from China. As the Internet rapidly changed, we failed to keep up. Now we must amend Section 230 to reflect the way the Internet impacts our lives today – both good and bad. That’s why Senator Cornyn and I are introducing the bipartisan legislation that would require companies to say something when they see something illegal online. This commonsense approach would create a clear mechanism for reporting criminal activity online, requiring companies to take reasonable steps to report unlawful activity or be held liable for that failure. It is past time we held these sites accountable.”

“High-level drug offenses, violent crimes like murder, and even acts of terrorism are documented online, and it’s past time that technology platforms play a role in standing up for the victims of these types of crimes by saying something when they see something,” said Senator Cornyn. “By requiring technology platforms to file reports when they become aware that a major crime has been committed, this legislation keeps platforms accountable and helps authorities deliver justice.”

The See Something, Say Something Online Act would change Section 230 by:

  • Requiring companies to report suspicious activity to law enforcement, similar to the way that banks are required to report suspicious transactions over $10,000 or others that might signal criminal activity.
  • Creating a system similar to the Bank Secrecy Act by authorizing the creation of an office within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to act as the clearinghouse for these reports, similar to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) within the Department of Treasury.
  • Raising the threshold for reporting to serious crimes like illegal drug sales, hate crimes, murder, or terrorism to ensure that users’ privacy remains safe.
  • Requiring that companies must take reasonable steps to prevent or address unlawful activity and can be held liable if they fail to report criminal activity.

Background information on the See Something, Say Something Online Act can be found here.

Bill text can be found here