Republican Senator Josh Hawley has introduced a bill aimed at stopping censorship on social media platforms based on political ideologies.
The ‘Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act‘ seeks to remove protections granted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act if platforms are not acting neutral in regards to political views. Currently, platforms cannot be held responsible for user-posted content, as they are not considered publishers. As these companies become more political — and take an editorial stance, many have called for these protections to be stripped.
Sen. Hawley’s bill would require platforms to follow the First Amendment when it comes to free and legal speech, if they want to keep their liability waiver.
“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,” Hawley explained. “Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, big tech has failed to hold up its end of the bargain.”
The bill would only be aimed at platforms with 30 million monthly users or more than $500 million in global annual revenue — so small message boards and overly specific forums would not be effected. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube would be.
“There’s a growing list of evidence that shows big tech companies making editorial decisions to censor viewpoints they disagree with. 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,” Hawley wrote.
If Hawley’s legislation is successful, tech giants will have to submit to an audit every two years to prove to the Federal Trade Commission that they are acting neutrally.
Google and Facebook’s lobbying group, The Internet Association, has come out swinging at 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,” Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association, said in a statement.
Beckerman’s statement conveniently ignores that Hawley’s bill is only seeking to protect free and legal speech — which obviously would not include human trafficking.