CCIA Warns Section 230 Bill Sets Up Government Censorship Of Online Speech; Less Freedom For Internet Sites To Remove Extremist Content

BY Heather Greenfield
June 19, 2019

Washington — Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has introduced legislation that would give tech companies the option of either applying to the government for a license to remove particular content like hate speech — or take an entirely hands-off approach. The bill to remove Section 230 liability protections without a government license and scrutiny of a company’s algorithms, is being touted as a way for the government to fix the perception of conservative bias online.

Currently Section 230 makes speakers, not the services they use, responsible for their actions. Section 230 is essentially a “Good Samaritan” provision. It ensures online services — and anyone with a website — can quickly remove extremist content without risk of being sued for their efforts to stamp out bad actors. Requiring ‘viewpoint neutrality’ would hamstring these efforts and give a legal advantage to extremists, Internet trolls, and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association is a longtime advocate against internet censorship in China, Russia and around the world. It has provided Congress with resources to better understand why Section 230 has been called “the most important law in tech.”

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Fans of the fictitious ‘1984’ novel would no doubt appreciate the ludicrousness of a so-called anti-censorship bill that would require companies to get government approval to censor nefarious content — or face legal liability. This is an unbelievable disregard for the essence of the First Amendment and attempt to overlay a lens of partisan politics over the communications of millions of Americans.”

“If Congress is serious about tech companies doing more to remove hate speech and illegal content online, putting new restrictions on the legal protection that allows them to do that would be ill-advised. CCIA has spent decades fighting internet censorship regimes around the world, alongside US diplomats. 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.”

“At a time when white nationalists are stealthily seeding calls in the mainstream press for ‘viewpoint neutrality’, it’s troubling that the Senator would contemplate legislation forcing online services to carry these views. American businesses shouldn’t be forced to be neutral toward racism and extremism.”

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