Bill Would Make Tech Companies Liable If They Squash Speech
According to information obtained exclusively by The Federalist, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) introduced a bill to amend the Communications Decency Act so tech companies that restrict constitutionally protected speech may not retain liability protections. Under Section 230 of the CDA, big tech companies are generally shielded from liability for unlawful content on their platforms (such as posts engaging in trafficking or terrorism).
But Loeffler’s Stopping Big Tech Censorship Act would allow internet users to challenge those protections if the platform censors users’ free speech. It would also require tech companies to “explain the practices and procedures” they use to censor content, and provide an explanation to users when their content is taken down.
“For too long, Big Tech has cloaked themselves in the protection of the First Amendment when convenient, while using their essentially monopolistic platforms to censor and suppress conservative speech,” Loeffler said.
The bill’s introduction follows a similar executive order issued by President Trump last month. The Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship likewise states that companies engaging in online censorship should not receive immunity under Section 230.
In response to the executive order, the Department of Justice released recommendations for reform. The Justice Department’s review included a suggestion to “limit immunity for content moderation decisions to those done in accordance with plain and particular terms of service and accompanied by a reasonable explanation,” except in certain exigent circumstances.
Loeffler’s bill follows a similar bill proposed by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. Hawley’s Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act, of which Loeffler is a co-sponsor, would only grant Section 230 immunity to tech companies that operate in “good faith” toward speech on their platforms. Hawley’s bill would also allow internet users to sue platforms that violate the “good faith” standard.
Elle Reynolds is an intern at the Federalist, and a senior at Patrick Henry College studying government and journalism. You can follow her work on Twitter at @_etreynolds.