House Republicans circulate memo on legislative concepts targeting Big Tech

Republican staff on the House Energy and Commerce Committee circulated a memo Thursday morning outlining legislative concepts aimed at reining in some of the power of the largest tech companies in the U.S. 

The legislative concepts outlined in the memo largely target content moderation practices and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the controversial law that provides a liability shield for tech platforms for third-party content posted on their sites. 

It builds off of the Big Tech Accountability Platform that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the top Republican on the committee, released earlier this year. Republicans on the committee also pressed the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter on their content moderation practices during a recent committee hearing. 

The memo outlines a legislative concept aimed at requiring “reasonable moderation practices” at the Big Tech companies.

And it more specifically lays out a legislative concept to modify Section 230 to “only provide liability protection for moderation of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment or specifically listed in the statute” and to remove the liability protection under Section 230 for content moderation decision made by the companies that “discriminate based on political affiliation or viewpoint.”

Republicans have accused the tech companies of censorship with an anti-conservative bias, in part fueled by Twitter’s decision to permanently ban former President Trump and Facebook’s ongoing suspension of Trump’s account. A report released by New York University in February, however, found such claims are not backed by evidence

The memo also details a legislative concept to “carve out Big Tech” companies from Section 230. 

And it includes a section aimed at protecting children online, including expanding the Children Online Privacy Protection Act and suggesting a requirement for companies to report on what kind of advertising they are conducting on children and teens.

Democrats are planning to reintroduce a bill, the KIDS Act, that would further regulate digital advertising aimed at children. The bill did not gain any Republican sponsors when it was previously introduced. 

But Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who is planning to introduce the House version of the bill, told The Hill Wednesday that she has been “heartened” to hear her Republican colleagues speak out on this issue and said “hopefully” they will join Democrats in taking legislative action.

Tags Big tech Cathy McMorris Rodgers Communications Decency Act digital privacy Donald Trump Facebook Google Kathy Castor Section 230 Twitter

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