Republicans Address Suppression Of News By Big Tech Companies

Over the last week, social media sites have shown their hand when it comes to suppressing the news. The bombshell story about Hunter and Joe Biden’s “pay to play” politics would have made national headlines, but thanks to Facebook and Twitter, most people didn’t even see it. Now, Republicans are fighting back, pushing a new bill that would stop the suppression of news within social media.

Taking the lead on the project is the Senator from Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn. With help from Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS), the trio formed the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act, which would help stop big tech companies from suppressing and controlling the news.

Speaking on Fox News, Blackburn said, “What we would do is turn that shield back into something that is transparent by saying, ‘Here is when you can use it. Here is when you can not use it’ and being explicit in that. Also defining the content creator and moderator.”

The segment was hosted by Will Cain, who asked Blackburn, “Why not just take Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act] away? Why not let these companies be liable to suits for what they may or may not publish?” 

Having spent an extensive time forming the new bill, Blackburn was quick to say, “We’ve worked on this over the last several years, the reason you do not take it away is because you want a competitive marketplace, and Section 230 was put in place for new start businesses,” she explained. “This is something that was put there in the ’90s as the internet and these platforms were growing. They are no longer in their infancy.”

While the bill is still being drafted, if passed the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act would…

  • Clarify when Section 230’s liability protections apply to instances where online platforms choose to restrict access to certain types of content;
  • Condition the content moderation liability shield on an objective reasonableness standard. In order to be protected from liability, a tech company may only restrict access to content on its platform where it has “an objectively reasonable belief” that the content falls within a certain, specified category;
  • Remove “otherwise objectionable” and replace it with concrete terms, including “promoting terrorism,” content that is determined to be “unlawful,” and content that promotes “self-harm.”
  • Clarify that the definition of “information content provider” includes instances in which a person or entity editorializes or affirmatively and substantively modifies the content created or developed by another person or entity but does not include mere changes to format, layout, or basic appearance of such content.

This piece was written by Jeremy Porter on October 18, 2020. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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