Today Senators Warner (D-VA), Hirono (D-HI), and Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced a new bill that they say is intended to address real-world harm caused by Big Tech companies business practices. Unfortunately, the bill is written in such a way that it would have enormous unintended consequences, similar to repealing Section 230 entirely.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future issued the following statement, which can be attributed to director Evan Greer (she/her):
We absolutely agree that Congress needs to take meaningful action to address the real world harm being done by Big Tech companies’ surveillance capitalist business models. But unfortunately this bill, as written, would have enormous unintended consequences for human rights and freedom of expression. It creates a huge carveout in Section 230 that impacts not only advertising but essentially all paid services, such as web hosting and CDNs, as well as small services like Patreon, Bandcamp, and Etsy.
While it appears the bill’s sponsors intended to make targeted changes to Section 230, as written this bill essentially guts Section 230. It would solidify the monopoly power of the largest tech companies like Facebook and Google while crushing small sites and rendering the Internet almost completely unusable for activism and organizing. We urge lawmakers to pass the SAFE Sex Worker study act to investigate the harm done by SESTA/FOSTA, and hold hearings about the potential human rights and civil liberties implications of changing Section 230 before advancing legislation that could do tremendous harm.
We hope to work with the bill’s sponsors and supporters to work toward meaningful policy changes to hold Big Tech companies accountable for their role in undermining democracy and basic rights. We urge swift action on measures such as strong data privacy legislation and enforcement of antitrust and civil rights laws.
Fight for the Future recently helped organize a letter from 70+ racial justice, LGBTQ+, sex worker advocacy, and human rights organizations warning lawmakers about the potential harms of overly broad or uncareful changes to Section 230. We urge lawmakers to read it and take these concerns seriously. (Please note: we do not speak for any of the groups who signed the letter in terms of their support or opposition to any specific legislative proposal.)