Bill Affecting CDA Section 230 Could Change Everything
With project Veritas being uncovered amongst all the other crazy political interference and censorship scandals going on, we need some legislation to set things right to protect free speech and liberty. Josh Hawley, a Republican senator has stepped up to the plate to introduce a bill that attempts to minimize the overreaching powers of massive big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and all the other big tech companies that more or less have a monopoly on social media, communications, advertising, and search engines on the internet.
What the bill aims to do is remove these tech giants’ legal liability protections under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (DCA). What this currently does is protects them from being liable for illegal content online given they act as a platform meaning they cannot decide who can speak arbitrarily. Given ALL these platforms have been acting as publishers meaning they are deciding arbitrarily who can or cannot speak on their platform, they should not be afforded these liabilities. The reason they haven’t been pushed on this is because Democrats in the past have largely ignored this, but we are seeing now that even they are being affected as these tech giants transcend any political alignment, however many of their policies are arbitrarily applied to anyone with ideological or political views right of the progressive left. Given there has been such a heavy bias against conservative voices, it has become obvious that they are not unbiased and have been acting as a publisher and thus should not be allowed to benefit of the legal privileges of being a platform.
All this requires is that they simply uphold the values and principles of free speech which they have publicly spoken out against. Given they do not agree with the values of free speech, I believe this legislation is even that much more important coming up to the 2020 elections where we again have seen with project Veritas that there are active processes in place to meddle with the election against conservatives. We will cover Veritas in a separate post.
All these platforms would have to do moving forward is to prove that their internal algorithms and moderation are politically unbiased, and nothing must change. If they cannot, they must change or move forward as a publisher which would dramatically change the way they would operate.
If they did go the route of being a publisher, here are some things I would expect they’d have to change. If they did this they would be liable for ANYTHING on the platform meaning you could bet to start seeing required approvals on posts, no more live streaming, way more censorship, way more banning, and they’d likely apply this to private messages too even given Facebook already reads them. Another thing to consider would be that they might also have to go through everything in the past and ban people and act based on what they have said and done to ensure their protected. It would be a nightmare, to say the least, and I really don’t expect to see something like that happen.
Now given they do go forward with proving their unbiased decision making (which we know it isn’t), they are going to have to make a lot of changes to meet the requirements. Keep in mind this bill would only apply to companies with more “30 million active users in the US, more than 300 million users worldwide, or more than $500 million in global annual revenue.” This would easily apply to all the major big tech companies we know and use while giving smaller platforms a chance to grow before they can really handle a massive userbase and start to work with the government to ensure fairness.
The main aim of the bill is to simply ensure that platforms are politically neutral as they should be. The argument of them being a private company is fine and dandy until they start to meddle in elections and have a monopoly on most what internet users see and consume.
The tech companies have denied these claims, but again we’ve seen Veritas and know what’s happening, so in my opinion, this bill MUST go through and it will dramatically change the social landscape that we operate under. People will be free to speak their minds on Facebook again without fear of losing access.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Ted Cruz have both given the same criticisms of Facebook and other big tech companies as more and more examples are popping up of biased algorithms and moderation. Hawley said “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.”
The bill would have the Federal Trade Commission certifying these companies by proving their moderation and algorithms are neutral and they will have to reapply every 2 years and if they cannot be certified then they will not have section 230 protection and could be sued and held liable for the content on their platforms.
Hawley said, “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.”
A lot of the articles I’ve read haven’t included a link to the actual document, so I’ve added that in my sources at the bottom. The reason this is so big is that this isn’t just about election meddling, it’s about people who hold a certain political viewpoint being censored and discouraged from voicing that view. To quote from the document, a decision is biased if a provider “makes a decision about moderating information provided by other information content providers that are motivated by an intent to negatively affect a political party, political candidate, or political viewpoint.”
It also states that if they want to blame an employee for a decision rather than their policy, they must publicly share this with the public and rectify it immediately upon learning of the biased decision.
What is interesting is to see the articles coming out against the proposed bill. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein said “[If] social media firms are worried about being liable for user-generated content, they’re likely to be more aggressive in taking down any vaguely political content, out of fear that it could put them in legal jeopardy. They aren’t likely to respond by being more open to controversial posts from all sides.” They say this assuming that the companies will fail to prove they are unbiased and then will be held liable and this will force everyone to censor more. Yes, if they admit they are censoring conservatives and not upholding free speech, then they either must fix that or double down and it’s unrealistic that they would ruin their platforms and double down for some moral virtue signaling. It’s interesting that they pose the idea that the companies will not pass the certification as if they already know it’s a huge problem, but they have no solution to present. We know this will work, that’s why Google is speaking out against it. So, when I see people saying this will make it worse, I think they know there is censorship and they want it to continue.
Of course, the Vox article speaks out against the bill and funnily enough they claim that it will likely introduce more censorship where they just censor the left in an equal proportion to the right which again wouldn’t make sense because then their own tribe would be negatively affected. I do admit that would be bad for everyone, but the point of the bill is to prevent them from arbitrarily making these decisions so naturally they would have so set actual guidelines that apply to both sides. Ideally, that would mean they would go off the premise of free speech, but that’s not guaranteed. Again though, it wouldn’t make sense for them to increase censorship and push more people off their platforms as a result of this.
Joshua Wright said “that a ‘Fairness Doctrine’ for the internet is a bad idea. And the bill quite literally injects a board of bureaucrats into millions of decisions about internet content. This is central planning. Full stop.” While there is a concern for the government to be involved, it’s not that they would be involved in the decisions, but rather ensuring that they were made fairly. This could be easily implemented if tech giants had clear policy and rules for their platform that was unbiasedly enforced. It’s a simple fix. The thing is, they don’t get to decide what gets moderated, just that the moderation is done equally.
The actual concern is based around who is on the commission deciding what political neutrality is. Given we can strike a fair and reasonable agreement on what true political neutrality would be, I believe this will work out and be a massive step forward for free speech on the internet.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.