GOP Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington recently announced they plan to take on Big Tech. Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, have drafted legislation that aims to strip the tech platforms of the protections they currently enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Fox Business reports the “discussion draft” would require the big tech companies to “report any content moderation decisions to the Federal Trade Commission” and prevent them from “using Section 230 liability protections to ‘silence conservatives.’”
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” The “discussion draft” would adjust Section 230 so that immunity would not apply to “certain companies” and mandate the tech platforms “implement and maintain reasonable and user-friendly appeals processes for decisions about content on the platforms.”
Social media giants and search engines have long been free from liability for content posted to their platforms because they hold status as platforms, not publishers. However, critics contest they should be held accountable for the content they carry if they act as curators, choosing what content can be published.
The draft bill would place large platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon into a proposed separate category, Section 230A, that would hold them accountable for the content they choose to “amplify, promote or suggest.”
The bill would also require the companies to report “content enforcement decisions and appeals for other purposes” to the Federal Trade Commission quarterly and limit their liability protections to only moderate speech that is “not protected by the First Amendment.”
Rep. McMorris Rodgers told Fox News, “big tech can no longer be allowed to hide behind Section 230” and that “it’s time to expose Big Tech’s bias and make sure they treat constitutionally protected speech fairly.” Rep. Jordan stated that Big Tech is “out to get conservatives” and that their bill “builds upon previous work by our conference to undo the legal immunity that Big Tech hides behind to evade accountability.”
The draft bill has not yet been formally introduced, but the announcement comes shortly after news of former President Trump’s class-action suit against the Big Tech giants.
Democrats also hope to reform section 230 and hold Big Tech accountable for content published on their platforms but for a completely different reason than the Republican Representatives. While the Republicans want the platforms to be held responsible because they believe they act as publishers and silencing conservative opinions, Democrats believe the platforms have not done enough to combat “hate speech” and “misinformation.”
Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico introduced the “Health Misinformation Act” to hold the platforms accountable for “inaccurate statements about health information.” Sen. Klobuchar has called on some social media platforms to “remove accounts that are responsible for producing the majority of misinformation about the coronavirus”.
Sen. Luján stated, “throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube did little while COVID-19 related misinformation spread on their platforms — fueling distrust in public health officials, promoting conspiracy theories and putting lives at risk.”
Both sides of the political aisle want to hold Big Tech accountable, but each side’s reasoning could not be more contrasting.