Reps. Gabbard & Gosar Introduce ‘Break Up Big Tech’ Bill to Remove Legal Immunity from Big Tech Who Censor Users

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Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04) introduced H.R.8922, the Break Up Big Tech Act of 2020, which would remove the Section 230 legal immunity shield that protects interactive computer service providers — like big tech monopolies and social media companies — who engage in certain manipulative practices, including acting as publishers and censoring certain users. 

“Big tech monopolies like Google and Facebook have made billions of dollars by creating online platforms that monetize our private information, use manipulative and destructive algorithms, and act as publishers choosing what information they want to censor or publish. They undermine our freedom of speech and treat us and our attention as the product, monetizing it to line their pockets with more money without any regard for the damaging consequences,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This bill removes the legal immunity that service providers have taken advantage of to act with impunity, while maintaining Section 230 protections for those who provide truly neutral social media platforms or search engines without the use of manipulative algorithms.” 

“Big Tech monopolies continue to censor and manipulate users without consent or liability. The Break Up Big Tech Act revokes liability protections for bad Samaritans and instead empowers users,” said Rep. Paul Gosar. “I am proud to work with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard on the Don’t Push My Buttons ActStop the Censorship Act, and now the Break Up Big Tech Act to reform Section 230 and protect online consent and free speech instead of censorship and manipulation.” 

Background: H.R.8922, the Breakup Big Tech Act of 2020 would take away legal immunity from interactive computer service providers that engage in certain manipulative activities, including social media companies who act as publishers by moderating and censoring content. Specifically, the Breakup Big Tech Act of 2020 would remove legal immunity for providers that engage in the following activities: 

  • Selling and displaying personalized as well as contextual advertising without user’s consent
  • Collecting data for commercial purposes other than the direct sale of the interactive computer service, i.e. turning the user into a commodity or otherwise monetizing the transmission of content
  • Acting as a marketplace in the digital space by facilitating the placement of items into the stream of commerce
  • Employing digital products and designs intended to engage and addict users to the service
  • Acting as a publisher by using algorithms to moderate or censor content without opt-in from users

 Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act generally provides liability immunity for online companies that publish information provided by third-party users. The regulation creates a “Good Samaritan” liability protection for those running interactive computer services should they remove third-party materials deemed obscene or objectionable so long as it is done in good faith. The law is out of date and has not kept up with the destructive practices of big tech monopolies, who are essentially acting as publishers with the use of manipulative algorithms.  In October, Rep. Gabbard and Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04) introduced H.R.8515, the “Don’t Push My Buttons” Act which would reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by limiting immunity from liability for online platforms that curate content for users based on collected personal data, unless users explicitly choose to receive curated content. Reps. Gabbard and Gosar are also cosponsors of H.R.7808, the Stop the Censorship Act. 

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