News

Politics & Policy

Hawley to Introduce Bill Making It Easier to Sue Big Tech Firms Over Political Bias

Senator Josh Hawley (R, Mo.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 3, 2019 (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) plans to introduce legislation that would make it easier for consumers to sue big tech companies that display overt political bias, his office announced Wednesday.

The bill would make firms like Facebook, Youtube, and Google legally liable for user-generated content, unless and until they can demonstrate that their content moderation processes are unaffected by political bias.

“This legislation simply states that if the tech giants want to keep their government-granted immunity, they must bring transparency and accountability to their editorial processes and prove that they don’t discriminate,” Hawley said in a news release.

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, tech platforms are currently immune from legal action related to the user-generated content they host.

Hawley, who has emerged as the foremost Republican critic of big tech in his first months in office, plans to strip companies of that protection in order to counter the anti-conservative bias he believes is rife within Silicon Valley firms. In doing so, he is channeling the longstanding Republican charge that social media platforms profit from a double standard in which they curate user content according to their political biases, in much the same way a publisher would, while continuing to benefit from the legal protections afforded to neutral platforms.

The proposed legislation would only apply to sites that have more than 30 million active users in the U.S., 50 million active users worldwide or more than $500 million in annual revenue. Companies that exceed those benchmarks would be required to demonstrate every two years “by clear and convincing evidence” that they do not “negatively affect a political party, political candidate, or political viewpoint” through their content curation.

The bill currently has no co-sponsors and will likely face stiff opposition from Democrats, who disbelieve the charge of anti-conservative bias, and business-friendly Republicans averse to exposing tech firms to seemingly endless litigation.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

The March for Life Is a March for Truth

Pro-lifers are marching today, as they do every year, to commemorate a great evil that was done in January 1973 and to express solidarity with its innocent victims. The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade eliminated legal protections for unborn children in all 50 states, and did so without any ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The March for Life Is a March for Truth

Pro-lifers are marching today, as they do every year, to commemorate a great evil that was done in January 1973 and to express solidarity with its innocent victims. The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade eliminated legal protections for unborn children in all 50 states, and did so without any ... Read More

A Nation of Barbers

It seems almost inevitable that long hair is unwelcome at Barbers Hill High School. There’s a touch of aptronymic poetry in Texas public-school dress-code disputes. When I was in school in the 1980s, at the height of the Satanism panic, the local school-district superintendent circulated a list of ... Read More

A Nation of Barbers

It seems almost inevitable that long hair is unwelcome at Barbers Hill High School. There’s a touch of aptronymic poetry in Texas public-school dress-code disputes. When I was in school in the 1980s, at the height of the Satanism panic, the local school-district superintendent circulated a list of ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More
U.S.

Nadler’s Folly

Jerry Nadler must have missed the day in law school where they teach you about persuasion. The House Democrat made a critical error early in the trial of President Trump. He didn’t just say that Republican senators, who voted to begin the proceedings without calling witnesses, were part of a cover-up. He said ... Read More
U.S.

Nadler’s Folly

Jerry Nadler must have missed the day in law school where they teach you about persuasion. The House Democrat made a critical error early in the trial of President Trump. He didn’t just say that Republican senators, who voted to begin the proceedings without calling witnesses, were part of a cover-up. He said ... Read More