Three Republican senators announced the introduction of a bill to amend the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to clarify the original intent of such a law and increase the accountability of big technology companies for their censorship of political discourse, Breibart reported.
The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee introduced a bill, according to a Sept. 8 statement, titled Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act initiated by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), intent on updating Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 should not protect Big Tech against potential lawsuits from their users for censorship.
The Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act would:
- Clarify in which cases Section 230 protects companies when they decide to restrict access to certain types of content;
- Condition the shield of responsibility for content moderation on a standard of objective reasonableness. To be protected from liability, a technology company can only restrict access to the contents of its platform when it has “an objectively reasonable belief” that the content falls within a certain and specified category;
- Remove the label of ” otherwise objectionable” content and replace it with specific terms, such as “promoting terrorism,” content that is determined to be “illegal,” and content that promotes “self-harm”;
- Clarify that the definition of “content provider” includes cases where a person or entity affirmatively and substantially publishes or modifies content created or developed by another person or entity, but does not include mere changes to the basic format, arrangement, or appearance of such content.
Graham commented on the bill saying, “I’m very pleased to be working with Senators Wicker and Blackburn to bring about much-needed reform of Section 230. Social media companies are routinely censoring content that to many, should be considered valid political speech. This reform proposal addresses the concerns of those who feel like their political views are being unfairly suppressed.”
Blackburn said that today’s internet is completely different from that of 1996 and that online platforms have been refined in a way that nowadays can tremendously influence how a person discovers information.
The background of the bill
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was drafted in 1996, protects online platforms from censoring content without being liable to possible legal action, and social media was included within this “immunity.” However, the law was initially drafted to protect minors from harmful content on the internet.
In recent years, especially after Trump took office, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media have taken advantage of this immunity to censor what many consider freedom of expression. But this would not be serious or perhaps not as critical if it were not for the fact that censorship always occurs over conservative or right-wing opinions and against the narrative created by mainstream media, or politically incorrect expressions.
There are so many examples of this. Without going any further, currently all of President Trump’s posts on Facebook contain a warning label and guide users to “get informed” about the elections, since for Facebook voting by mail is not at risk of fraud, despite constant reports of people voting twice, or tens of thousands of rejected ballots or agents who are directly involved. See Mail-in voting fraud: Democrat operative reveals details of how to rig an election.
The other important point this bill seeks to change is the ambiguity with which these companies censor content for violating “community guidelines.” Often censored publications fall into categories that certainly do not have much to do with what is said or expressed. Although the user can appeal the decision, generally if there is no pressure from public opinion, the decisions stand.
For example, in late July according to a BBC article, Twitter blocked a posting by Donald Trump Jr. of a video showing a group of doctors claiming that hydroxychloroquine could aid in the cure of the CCP Virus. The reason Twitter gave was that it “violated the policy on spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19 [the CCP Virus]” despite the fact that the group of doctors presented concrete evidence that the drug benefited hundreds of patients.
Another notable example is the censorship currently suffered by Prager University, a conservative website with informational videos covering topics ranging from religion to politics to social issues. Prager sued YouTube for censorship, but thanks to section 230 protection, the courts dismissed the suit.