I just read Senator Josh Hawley’s bill. It’s not very long (11 pages of double-spaced large font).
Issues in very brief
It concerns Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 wherein a distinction is made between publishers and platforms. Publishers are legally liable for all content published (libel, slander, etc.); whereas, platform providers are immune (you can’t sue the phone company because someone calls you and threatens your life—assault).
Internet Big tech companies are acting like publishers through politically motivated moderation, politically motivated censorship, politically motivated banning, and politically—and often financially—motivated de-platforming, but are immune from damage done to individuals (slander reputation for racism, misogyny, “hate speech,” etc.), businesses (financial damage through political and social libel and slander they allow, but not counter-views in defense).
This also does wide-scale damage to the public commons at large: through filtering out political ideas that ought to receive a public hearing and scrutiny in an open society; but also, meddling with the political process, now, with the astoundingly shocking Project Veritas revelations about Google, caught on video actively seeking to
influence meddle, rig, and hack elections through actual algorithm-based, leftist bias search results on a platform that warrants that its results are not biased.
“Don’t be evil.” (Google’s original motto in its code of conduct, dropped in 2015)
Summary of what the Bill does from Hawley’s office
- Removes automatic immunity under Section 230 from big tech companies
- Gives big tech companies the ability to earn immunity through external audits
- Big tech companies would have to prove to the FTC by clear and convincing evidence that their algorithms and content-removal practices are politically neutral
- The FTC could not certify big tech companies for immunity except by a supermajority vote
- Big tech companies would be responsible for the cost of conducting audits
- Big tech companies would have to reapply for immunity every two years
- Preserves existing immunity for small and medium-sized companies
- The bill applies only to companies with more than 30 million active monthly users in the U.S., more than 300 million active monthly users worldwide, or who have more than $500 million in global annual revenue
I think it could be simpler
No more have your cake and eat it too.
Be a publisher with liability for all you publish, and of course, maintain iron grip control as all big media outlets do with their teams of editors and lawyers. I agree with this. They publish, then they get to control every jot & tittle of what’s published, for their own good. They have no obligation to provide a voice for anyone, no obligation to respect the 1st Amendment, etc.
But if you want to be a platform and enjoy immunity from all the legal liability that goes with publishing—especially when you’re very big and there are lots of moving parts and left-hand-right-hand dynamics—then you have to be a platform. You don’t get to have it both ways.
Ideally, these Big tech like Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook ought to be just like the Wild Wild West Internet itself, while providing various tools, features, and user experience in exchange for the content creation of users and a captive audience for advertising revenue.
To accomplish that should be easy
Any Big tech that’s claiming platform status has to respect the entirety of the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, provided they do any business with the federal government in terms of contracts, grants, significant other relationships, etc.
So that’s the kicker. And, they would be liable for allegations of violating civil rights (i.e., the US Bill of Rights in its entirety…just like the Feds have to do).
If they don’t do business with the feds, they have the choice of acting in the same way as those who do; or, if they don’t, be small enough nobody cares…or, play it very safe in the true spirit of the thing.
A couple of Standard Objections
The first, most obvious: da porn, da hitler, da children. All the platforms have tons and tons of controls about what you see, who sees your stuff, who you are connected with, blocking, filtering, and on and on (really, rendering all this censorship stuff superfluous…except considering the political goals of Big tech). It renders the old saying “just change the channel” ridiculous. It’s now a channel nob with hundreds of functions and features.
So, just shut up, lazy asses, and do your own job. Protect your own sensitivities and your children, and so on.
The second is that of foreign countries, particularly the EU wankers that love to push American tech companies around and get them to fly over, hat in hand.
It ought to be American policy that all American Internet publishers and platforms are immune from international regulation in any respect to the extent they do not have a physical presence in that country. That may be the case—I don’t know—but then why do these companies stupidly have offices and server farms in these countries?
It should be easy enough to divest all of that and then it’s on EU, et al to police its own citizens, just like China does.