There have been many calls for reform for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Justice Department recommended there be changes made because Section 230 has allowed large companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove content without recourse. With social distancing as the new normal, this means free speech is being exercised more and more on these big tech platforms. When these companies are allowed to remove any content, they deem “unacceptable,” many feel like their right to free speech is being threatened.
Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, along with several other U.S. Representatives, introduced H.R. 7808 Stop the Censorship Act of 2020 today. According to the press release, “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (Section 230) affords Big Tech immunity from liability for third-party content. Section 230’s “Good Samaritan” provision provides immunity for the removal of users and content, and has been abused by Big Tech to censor competition and lawful speech.” The legislation, which was initially introduced in July of 2019, revokes immunity for the removal of competition and lawful speech. It also helps users protect themselves from objectionable material. The Justice Department recently recommended these reforms.
Part of the recommendation is that Big Tech must offer content filters for users instead of deleting material and free speech that they deem unacceptable. That means the control is in the hands of the user, not the Big Tech companies.
“Online platforms should not have special immunity to censor competition and lawful political speech,” said Rep. Gosar. “The broad and undue immunity for content and user removal granted by Section 230 must be reined in by Congress. We cannot continue to subsidize, deputize, or blackmail Silicon Valley to decide what is or isn’t an allowable conversation. Stop the Censorship Act of 2020 empowers users and limits Big Tech to the same rights and liabilities as everyone else.”
Another sponsor of the Stop the Censorship Act of 2020 is Rep. Doug Collins. He commented, “Our country was founded on the free exchange of ideas and the ability of all Americans to speak freely, a principle that has allowed the Internet to thrive, but in recent years, companies like Twitter and Google have used Section 230 as a shield while unlawfully abusing the First Amendment rights of their users. It’s time we put an end to Big Tech’s unlawful censorship by rolling back their broad protections and promoting market competition, which is exactly what the Stop the Censorship Act of 2020 will do.”
“Freedom of speech is paramount to the fabric of America. No one should have the power to censor political speech, including ‘Big Tech,'” said Rep. Lance Gooden.
The White House released a statement regarding online censorship, stating, “The petition also requests that the FCC clarify when an online platform curates content in “good faith,” and requests transparency requirements on their moderation practices, similar to requirements imposed on broadband service providers under Title I of the Communications Act. President Trump will continue to fight back against unfair, un-American, and politically biased censorship of Americans online.”
Additionally, the Commerce Department released a petition to clarify liability protections for online platforms. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said, “Many Americans rely on online platforms to stay informed and connected, sharing their thoughts and ideas on issues important to them, which can oftentimes lead to free and open debate around public policies and upcoming elections. It has long been the policy of the United States to foster a robust marketplace of ideas on the Internet and the free flow of information around the world. President Trump is committed to protecting the rights of all Americans to express their views and not face unjustified restrictions or selective censorship from a handful of powerful companies.”
Doug Collins (GA-9), Ralph Norman (SC-5), Lance Gooden (TX-5), Steve King (IA-4), Jim Banks (IN-3), Matt Gaetz (FL-1), Ted Yoho (FL-3), Tom Tiffany (WI-7), Ron Wright (TX-6), and Glenn Grothman (WI-6) introduced H.R. 7808 Stop the Censorship Act of 2020.