WASHINGTON – Silicon Valley tech giants, who are increasingly and brazenly deplatforming conservative media outlets and pundits, will finally face accountability if legislation proposed by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is successful.
Hawley’s introduced legislation Wednesday that would amend the Communications Decency Act in order to repeal the legal immunity Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other big technology companies have over what is posted on their websites.
The bill, the Ending Support for Internet Censhorship Act, would amend Section 230 of CDA which shields online platforms from liability for the content their users post. Companies will be able to earn immunity from the crack down if they submit audits to the Federal Trade Commission every two years demonstrating their algorithms and content removal practices are “politically neutral.” Immunity certification would require a super-majority vote by the FTC.
Nearly all of the major tech giants have verifiably exhibited its use of algorithmic manipulation to censor conservative opinions, operating as platforms and should be legally mandated to be subject as such under the law.
“With Section 230, tech companies get a sweetheart deal that no other industry enjoys: complete exemption from traditional publisher liability in exchange for providing a forum free of political censorship,” Sen. Hawley said in a statement. “Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, big tech has failed to hold up its end of the bargain.”
The tech industry is flagrantly blacklisting and silencing individuals and organizations they disagree with, while using a nebulous mechanism, the Missouri Republican warned.
“There’s a growing list of evidence that shows big tech companies making editorial decisions to censor viewpoints they disagree with,” he continued. “Even worse, the entire process is shrouded in secrecy because these companies refuse to make their protocols public. This legislation simply states that if the tech giants want to keep their government-granted immunity, they must bring transparency and accountability to their editorial processes and prove that they don’t discriminate.”
“This legislation simply states that if the tech giants want to keep their government-granted immunity, they must bring transparency and accountability to their editorial processes and prove that they don’t discriminate,” Hawley said.
Last month, Facebook banned multiple conservative personalities from both Facebook and Instagram including Infowars hosts Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer and Milo Yiannopoulos.
Prior to the Facebook ban, Jones was barred in Sept. 2019 from Twitter, Apple and Google’s YouTube propagating so-called “hate speech.”
In February, Facebook launched a new algorithm to ensure that conservative news would not spread on the social media platform. The algorithm change caused President Donald Trump’s engagement on Facebook posts to plummet a whopping 45%.
Repealing the immunity provision would potentially mandate tech companies use an editorial system that would require vetting of all the content its users publish, and eliminate their use of human checkers and algorithms to scan content after they are already posted and disseminated. This amendment would dramatically alter the business models of big social networks that are reliant on huge volumes of user-generated content.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group funded by the Koch family, cautions Hawley’s legislation would ultimately give more power to the tech industry to usurp free speech.
“Eroding the crucial protections that exist under Section 230 creates a scenario where government has the ability to police your speech and determine what you can or cannot say online. Senator Hawley has argued that some tech platforms have become too powerful, but legislation like this would only cement the market dominance of today’s largest firms,” the conservative organization said in a statement.
The Internet Association, a lobbying group whose members include Google and Facebook, also criticized the bill.
“This bill forces platforms to make an impossible choice: either host reprehensible, but First Amendment protected speech, or lose legal protections that allow them to moderate illegal content like human trafficking and violent extremism. That shouldn’t be a tradeoff,” said Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association.
Hawley’s bill marks the first significant piece of legislation in Congress addressing allegations of political bias against conservatives by tech companies.