DOJ, Hawley Propose Rules to Hold Big Tech Accountable for ‘Censorship’

June 17th, 2020 12:25 PM

Power players on the Hill and at the Department of Justice are mobilizing and rolling out unprecedented legislation and regulations to hold Big Tech accountable for its censorship of conservatives. 

The Justice Department is set to crack down today on the Section 230 protections, which have been used by Big Tech companies as a shield from lawsuits. This is being done “in an effort to make tech companies more responsible in how they police their content,” The Wall Street Journal reported. 

The Journal made note that “the department will propose to strike from federal law a provision that allows platforms to delete content that they merely deem to be ‘objectionable.’” That is in direct response to abuses by Big Tech firms restricting conservative political content.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has also proposed legislation that would reportedly empower users “who believe the provider is not ‘operating in good faith’ by consistently and fairly applying its content rules” to sue Big Tech companies for $5,000 and attorneys' fees, according to Axios.

The Journal reported that these upcoming changes will have a massive impact on Big Tech on multiple fronts:

“The department’s proposed changes, to be unveiled as soon as Wednesday, are designed to spur online platforms to be more aggressive in addressing illicit and harmful conduct on their sites, and to be fairer and more consistent in their decisions to take down content they find objectionable, the official said.”

These actions come after President Donald Trump just last month announced an executive order in response to him being censored by Twitter. The Journal summarized that “The executive order sought to impose limits on legal immunity for social-media companies when they are deemed to unfairly curb users’ speech, for instance by deleting their posts or suspending their accounts.”

The changes being proposed by the Justice Department, however, look to be on an even greater scale. The Journal explained that the legislative changes to be proposed are “seeking to strip civil immunity afforded to tech companies in a range of other circumstances, the administration official said.” The Journal summarized that Big Tech companies, which have been shielded by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996  thus far, are in for a reckoning:

“Under that law, tech platforms are generally not legally liable for actions of their users, except in relatively narrow circumstances. Internet platforms also are given broad ability to police their sites as they see fit under the current law.”

Sen. Hawley will reportedly “introduce legislation that would give consumers grounds to sue companies like Facebook or Twitter over accusations of selective censorship of political speech” on Wednesday, according to Axios.

The Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act” reportedly will hold Big Tech accountable to America’s fundamental value of free speech. Axios summarized a statement from Hawley’s office, suggesting it would “prevent major online companies from receiving the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act unless they revise their terms of service to include pledges to operate in good faith and details of their content moderation policies.”

Hawley explained in a tweet that this bill has both significant legal implications and support from several other Republican senators:

“Today I’m introducing new legislation to combat #BigTech censorship. It gives users the right to sue if the big platforms enforce their terms unfairly or unequally. Proud to be joined by ⁦@marcorubio @SenTomCotton @SenatorBraun.”