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CEO DATELINE – Tech groups protest internet ‘censorship’ bill

June 20, 2019
By Walt Williams

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Two tech industry associations are decrying a Senate bill that would yank the legal immunity that online platforms receive for user-generated content.

The Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), would eliminate an existing provision in current law that grants online platforms immunity from liability for the content posted by users, but only if the platforms don’t take steps to ensure their algorithms and content-approval practices are “politically neutral,” CNBC reported Wednesday.

The legislation was spurred by complaints that big social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as video streaming services such as YouTube, discriminate against conservatives. It would also only apply to only largest of online services, as the platforms must have at least 300 million global users or $500 million in annual revenue.

The bill was denounced by tech executives and associations that represent them. Michael Beckerman, CEO of the Internet Association, said the legislation puts online platforms in a situation they cannot win.

“This bill forces platforms to make an impossible choice: either host reprehensible, but First Amendment protected speech, or lose legal protections that allow them to moderate illegal content like human trafficking and violent extremism,” Beckerman said in a statement. “That shouldn’t be a tradeoff.”

Computer & Communications Industry Association CEO Ed Black went even further, compared the legislation to the dystopian novel 1984 and calling it an “unbelievable disregard for the essence of the First Amendment.”

“CCIA has spent decades fighting internet censorship regimes around the world, alongside U.S. diplomats,” Black said. “It would be disappointing to see the country that has been a leader against restrictive regimes create its own government-regulated regime to oversee the political correctness of internet content.”