by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley introduced legislation Wednesday that would force tech companies to prove their political neutrality or face increased liability for use-made content.
Hawley introduced the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, which dramatically amends a law providing internet companies broad immunity from being sued for content others post on their websites. His bill, if it becomes law, would provide big tech companies such immunity only if they can show they are politically neutral.
“With Section 230, tech companies get a sweetheart deal that no other industry enjoys: complete exemption from traditional publisher liability in exchange for providing a forum free of political censorship,” Hawley wrote in a statement announcing the bill. “Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, big tech has failed to hold up its end of the bargain.”
He was referring to Section 230 of the Community Decency Act, which was passed in 1996 when the Internet was young and growing. Congress was concerned at the time that subjecting the fledgling platform to the same civil liability as all other businesses would stymie growth.
The bill applies only to companies with more than 30 million active monthly users in the U.S., or that have more than $500 million in global annual revenue. Big tech companies would have to prove their neutrality to the Federal Trade Commission and reapply for immunity every two years, according to a copy of the legislation.
Other Republicans have also suggested amending the law to force social media companies into becoming more transparent. GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for one, suggested amending 230 while grilling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2018.