Just over a year ago, Big Tech ended the conversation about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. Twitter has suspended a Chinese virologist who suggested the virus was of human origin. Until last month, Facebook banned users from posting anything that suggested the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, rather than from nature.
Now, it seems Big Tech’s “fact checkers” agree that the lab leak theory is a credible explanation for the virus.
America today finds itself in a dangerous stalemate. Big Tech has usurped what are essentially authoritarian powers – the power to decide what you’re allowed to see, what you’re allowed to post, and who you’re allowed to share with.
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter all have the power to wipe you off the face of the Earth. They have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to ban and censor users espousing beliefs they see as conservative, or those who otherwise disagree with the far-left echo chambers now ubiquitous online.
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In addition to censoring Americans, Big Tech also regularly engages in content manipulation. Just weeks before the 2020 election, a New York Post article published material found on Hunter Biden’s hard drive that implicated Joe Biden in his son’s foreign transactions.
Twitter immediately deleted the story by suspending the New York Post account and preventing users from sharing the link to the story. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was even temporarily banned from Twitter for sharing the article. Facebook limited dissemination of the story, citing “misinformation.” Fast forward to today, and the Post’s reports of Hunter Biden held up, but Big Tech was able to interfere until after Election Day.
Big Tech has destroyed countless reputations, openly interfered in our elections in favor of Democratic candidates, and baselessly censored important topics in our national discourse. How are they doing?
The answer is Section 230. When lawmakers first drafted Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act in 1996, the same year the Palm Pilot was introduced to the world and a year before it was even Google’s creation, Congress wanted Internet companies to be able to host third-party content and engage in targeted moderation of the worst content without being responsible for what was written by others. These Internet companies did not write their own messages and content unlike traditional publishers such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, which can generally be held responsible for false information.
But since the bill was passed 25 years ago, the once disjointed internet companies that enjoyed Section 230 protections have turned into monopoly titans. Their mission has also changed. Today’s tech giants use opaque algorithms, irresponsible moderation teams, and “fact checkers” to manipulate American discourse according to their worldview.
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Section 230 grants these companies immunity from almost all liability, a privilege that no other industry enjoys.
The result is a deeply sick public square. That’s why, this week, I introduced my SPEECH legislation, which would modernize and limit the immunity afforded to tech companies by Section 230 and inject long-awaited liability into the industry. To begin with, my bill would remove liability protection for companies that fail to meet existing obligations, such as educating users about screening options and parental screens.
Under Section 230 as it is written today, big tech companies are able to censor Americans on the basis of extremely vague “otherwise objectionable” content. My bill would eliminate this overly vague language and replace it with concrete categories, such as “promoting terrorism”.
My legislation also includes a religious freedom clause, explicitly stating that section 230 does not extend the protection of liability to decisions that restrict content for its religious nature. It would also force transparency in big tech by forcing companies to publish public information relating to the moderation, promotion and curation of content.
More importantly, my bill would broaden the scope of the practices that hold a company accountable for the content of its platform. Specifically, the DISCOURSE Act would remove protections for businesses that engage in the following three destructive behaviors: first, manipulate algorithms to target users who have not requested or searched for the content; second, moderate users to promote or censor a specific point of view; and third, it would hold providers accountable when they engage in information creation and development.
If a business establishes a pattern of these behaviors, my legislation would make them responsible for all content on their site.
Today, a group of unelected, anonymous and unaccountable people now have the power to determine what can and cannot be said in everyday online conversations. Every day that we allow this status quo to remain in place, our new public square becomes more censored and disconnected from reality.
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Now Congress must pass the DISCOURSE Act, so we can hold Big Tech accountable and ensure our laws reflect the realities of the present.
Our democracy depends on it.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SEN. MARCO RUBIO