Specifically targeting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (DCA), the new legislation, the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act – when passed and becomes law – would render tech giants unprotected unless they could prove that their algorithms and content moderation are neutral and not politically biased.
The CDA became law in 1996. It provides key legal protection for tech companies and Section 230 of the law 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.”
In filing the bill, Sen. Hawley said that the CDA was passed during the time when the internet was still in infancy. Through the years, many tech companies have grown bigger and are now considered the most powerful companies in the world. As such, these companies should no longer be protected by the law which the Senator terms as a “sweetheart” deal that no other companies enjoy. The Senator also said that big tech companies failed to hold up to their end of the bargain which is to provide a forum free of political censorship. Facebook and Google, two of the biggest tech companies, have repeatedly been accused of political bias.
Senator Hawley also said that there is growing evidence that points to the fact that big tech companies are making editorial decisions to censor viewpoints they disagree with. The entire process is shrouded in secrecy and these companies failed to disclose their protocols. So, if they want to maintain their immunity from third-party liability, they must be transparent and prove that they don’t discriminate on content published on their platform.
To prove their neutrality, big tech firms will be required to submit their algorithms and content-removal practices to the FTC. They would also be responsible for the costs of performing audits on their platforms and would have to re-apply for immunity every two years – according to the bill.
The bill is gaining support.