Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri proposed a bill that would eliminate the immunity that large tech companies have from user content deemed illegal, offensive or obscene. Now, tech companies and trade groups are firing back at the senator, according to a report by CNBC.
The bill is called Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, and it would remove the immunity that companies enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
If the bill passes, companies would have to be subjected to an audit every two years to prove they are being “politically neutral,” if they want to keep immunity.
Tech industry trade groups said the focus on political neutrality will make it harder to moderate content, and that the bill would raise the cost of moderation and force companies to completely change their business models.
When Facebook and Twitter were asked to comment, they both cited a statement by the Internet Association, which is a lobbying group that represents tech companies.
“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,” said Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association. “That shouldn’t be a tradeoff.”
Facebook also pointed to a statement by NetChoice.
“This bill prevents social media websites from removing dangerous and hateful content, since that could make them liable for lawsuits over any user’s posting,” said Carl Szabo, general counsel at NetChoice, in a statement. “Sen. Hawley’s bill creates an internet where content from the KKK would display alongside our family photos and cat videos.”
A Twitter spokesperson said that a statement by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) was worth a look as well.
“This bill would punish success in the next generation of innovative startups and prevent them from achieving their full potential,” AFP said in its statement. “Lawmakers should reject this legislation.”