Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Regulate Online Speech

by | Jul 31, 2023

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Regulate Online Speech

by | Jul 31, 2023

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Senators Warren and Graham

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced a bill to create a new federal government commission overseeing online communication. The legislation is presented as consumer protection but grants new government authorities to police speech on the internet. 

“For too long, giant tech companies have exploited consumers’ data, invaded Americans’ privacy, threatened our national security, and stomped out competition in our economy,” said Warren. “This bipartisan bill would create a new tech regulator and makes clear that reining in Big Tech platforms is a top priority on both sides of the aisle.”

“For years, I have been trying to find ways to empower consumers against Big Tech,” Graham claimed. “I have heard too many stories from families who feel helpless in the face of Big Tech. … The creation of a regulatory commission to oversee Big Tech is the first step in a long journey to protect American consumers from the massive power these companies currently wield.”

The bill will establish a Digital Consumer Protection Commission that will designate some websites as “dominant platforms.” It appears those sites will be in the crosshairs of the new commission as the legislation instructs the new agency “to intentionally avoid having the platform meet the qualifications for designation as a dominant platform.”

The “dominant platforms will be required to inform the government of their content moderation policies. The bill will require designated companies to “make publicly available, through clear and conspicuous disclosure, the dominant platform’s terms of service, which shall include the criteria the operator employs in content moderation practices.”

The “Twitter Files” and “Facebook Files” showed how the US government has influenced the social media giants and pressed them into censoring certain viewpoints. Congressman Jim Jordan recently released internal Facebook communications showing the company drew the ire of the Joe Biden administration and responded by increasing censorship of views and people politically opposed to the White House. 

The commission will have extensive power over the dominant platforms as the companies will be required to obtain a license to operate. The commission can revoke any license for  “repeated, egregious, and illegal misconduct… that has caused harm to users of the dominant platform or employees, shareholders, or business.” 

The bill empowers the commission to standardize content moderation. The bill says the commission  “shall establish a standardized policy that operators of dominant platforms can adopt regarding content moderation and appeals of content-moderation decisions.” 

The legislation will place a vague requirement on the dominant platforms to mitigate harm. According to the bill, websites are required “mitigate the heightened risk of physical, emotional, developmental, or material harms posed by materials on, or engagement with, any platform…”

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of Antiwar.com and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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