New GOP bill would audit major tech companies for bias

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) unveiled a bill on Wednesday that would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a part of legislation that has worked as a shield for a number of tech companies.

The bill, called the “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act,” would amend Section 230 by making the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) certify that tech companies are being neutral in its moderation, specifically regarding political bias.

Hawley has recently championed bills that have tackled tech issues.

The bill would apply to tech companies with more than 30 million active monthly users in the United States, more than 300 million active monthly users worldwide, or have more than $500 million in global annual revenue, according to the senator.

While the bill doesn’t specify what companies would fall under those provisions, the stipulations in it are aimed at the major platforms online like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

The Communications Decency Act was passed in 1996. Section 230 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.”

Essentially, it gives internet companies immunity for what is posted on their platform by users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calls the section “one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the internet.”

However, amid growing calls among conservatives about alleged bias on tech platforms, Hawley’s bill takes aim at the provision.

“There’s a growing list of evidence that shows big tech companies making editorial decisions to censor viewpoints they disagree with,” Hawley said in a statement. “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.”

The bill was blasted by the Internet Association, a trade association that counts companies like Twitter, Google, Reddit, Yelp, LinkedIn, and Facebook among its members.

“CDA 230 is the law that allows online companies to moderate and remove content that no reasonable person wants online–including content that could have a ‘political viewpoint,’” Internet Association president and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement. “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.”

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Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).