Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are operated by “woke capitalists” who are intent on using their “enormous power” to influence the outcome of the 2020 elections and censor conservative voices, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley from Missouri warned Thursday.
Hawley, who is well-known for his activism against Big Tech companies, made the allegations in an unsuccessful attempt to force a vote on the Senate floor for his Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act.
In introducing the bill, Hawley accused the Big Tech platforms of “trying to use their power to shape the outcome of the election” and engaging in escalating acts of censorship against conservatives.
“Let’s just cut to the chase, the Big Tech platforms are owned and operated by woke capitalists. They are leftists. They are liberals. They are not conservatives. They are no friends to conservatives. They fervently opposed the election of Donald Trump and other conservatives in 2016. They fervently oppose it this year and now they are trying to use their power to shape the outcome of an election,” Hawley said.
“For months, the tech platforms have been engaging in escalating acts of censorship — political censorship aimed at conservatives. They’ve censored the president of the United States, they have banned pro-life groups from their sites. They have tried to silence independent conservative journalists like the Federalist,” he said.
No such action has been taken, he said, against liberal news organizations or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Hawley called his bill a “simple, straightforward solution to the censorship power of these digital platforms.” It would have impacted platforms with more than 30 million users in the U.S. or 300 million users worldwide and revenues of more than $1.5 billion.
The senator’s allegations comes on the heels of a move by the Department of Justice Wednesday to send draft legislation to Congress that seeks to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The draft legislative text implements reforms that the DOJ said was necessary in its June Recommendations and follows a yearlong review of the outdated statute. It also executes President Trump’s directive from the Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship.
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“For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement. “Ensuring that the internet is a safe, but also vibrant, open and competitive environment is vitally important to America. We therefore urge Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate criminal activity online.”
The DOJ’s draft legislation includes a series of reforms to promote transparency and open discourse and ensure that platforms are fairer to the public when removing lawful speech from their services. The proposal revises and clarifies the existing language of Section 230 and replaces vague terms that may be used to shield arbitrary content moderation decisions with more concrete language that gives greater guidance to platforms, users, and courts, the DOJ said. It also adds language to the definition of “information content provider” to clarify when platforms should be responsible for speech that they affirmatively and substantively contribute to or modify.
“The Department’s proposal is an important step in reforming Section 230 to further its original goal: providing liability protection to encourage good behavior online,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen added. “The proposal makes clear that, when interactive computer services willfully distribute illegal material or moderate content in bad faith, Section 230 should not shield them from the consequences of their actions.”
In the introduction of his bill Thursday, Hawley argued that Big Tech firms currently have too much power and control and they need to be reined in.
“These platforms control our social communication, the way we talk to each other when and how, where and on what terms. They control what news we read. What news we see. They control more and more journalism in America right down to what’s in new articles and how the headlines are written. They control how elected officials communicate with their constituencies, when they can run advertisements, what their messages can say and can’t and they want to control us,” he argued.
“The Big Tech platforms relentlessly spy on their customers, you and me. They track us around the web, monitor our every move online and even when we’re offline. They track our location, whether we’re in a car or riding a bike or on the street. They track the websites we visit and when. They track the things that we buy, they track the videos that we watch, they track what our children are doing. They track everything all with the purpose of getting enough information on each one of us to influence us, to shape our preferences and opinions and viewpoints. This is enormous power, unheard of power and the Big Tech platforms are intent on using it.”