Trust Busting the Internet Giants

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Trust Busting the Internet Giants

As we observed in the September 2017 Trends issue, “During the Obama years, the largest Silicon Valley firms carefully courted the people in the White House, even as their down-ballot allies were decimated.  Today, the “Internet Robber Barons” have dramatically fewer powerful friends left in Washington or most of the state capitals.  Their best friends in Congress are in the minority.  Friendly regulators are being rapidly replaced by those who have little reason to give them the “benefit of the doubt.”  And, with many vacancies to be filled, the judiciary is taking on a less friendly demeanor as each day passes.”  Since then, these trends have continued to unfold. 

Most recently, on June 17, four Republican senators introduced a bill aimed at limiting legal protections of Big Tech platforms if they are found to “selectively” suppress certain content.  Missouri Senator Josh Hawley said his measure would “give users the right to sue if the big platforms enforce their terms unfairly or unequally.” 

How?  Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (or CDA) protects websites from being liable for the speech of their users.  The Hawley bill would strip the liability protection from platforms that “restrict access to or availability of material to users by employing an algorithm that selectively enforces” its policies.

Hawley specifically charged that “Big Tech companies like Twitter, Google, and Facebook have used their power to silence political speech from conservatives without any recourse for users.  Congress should act to ensure [these] bad actors are not given a free pass to censor and silence their opponents.”

The bill follows up on President Trump’s May 28 Executive Order pointing the way toward future action that the federal government might take to rein in the power of social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

As Trump said in the Oval Office, the Silicon Valley companies have “unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, or alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences.”  He added, “There’s no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of interaction.”

Reacting to the ongoing riot happening in Minneapolis, Trump tweeted: “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis...

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