WASHINGTON—U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jim Jordan released legislation Wednesday to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Kara Frederick, research fellow for technology policy at The Heritage Foundation, responds:
We applaud these latest attempts to hold Big Tech accountable for continued censorship and viewpoint discrimination. This measured, careful proposal accounts for the technical realities of content moderation and identifies the issue of scale between tech companies of various size and reach.
By refining areas of Section 230 that Heritage has recognized are in need of clarification, these efforts take steps to reorient the spirit of Section 230 to Congress’ original intent.
As the Biden White House admits its collusion with Big Tech to remove content, requiring content moderation decisions be reported to the FTC with a public availability component is a good starting point to incentivize transparency. Further, the user-friendly appeals process also codifies a method of recourse for users targeted for their speech.
While these reforms are well-suited to address this moment through a conservative framework, focused Section 230 reform isn’t a silver bullet to righting Big Tech’s wrongs. Additional steps necessitate promoting the principles of federalism through constitutional state legislative action, amplifying free-market alternatives by founders and technologists, as well as vivifying civil society efforts to promote transparency within these companies.
Big Tech companies have moved far afield from Congress’ original intent in Section 230 and are, indeed, acting as publishers of information. Using the vague and overbroad “otherwise objectionable” language, Big Tech is labeling, suppressing, and removing content that has nothing to do with pornography, violence, obscenity, stalking, or harassment. Instead, these companies inordinately restrict content associated with conservative viewpoints. Governing content based on political opinion or association is not consistent with the liability protections of Section 230. Last year, Heritage outlined reforms to Section 230.
Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James, who rejected six-figure donations from Facebook and Google in 2020, has promised to no longer accept financial support from Big Tech companies as long as they continue to suppress conservative viewpoints.