Following rumors that discussion of a new GOP push to regulate big tech dominated a recent gathering of party leaders at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, a memo describing a broad new push to regulate big tech, entitled the "Big Tech Accountability Platform", has leaked to CNBC and a handful of other media outlets on Thursday.
The platform aims to bring "much needed reform and oversight" to big tech - that is, firms earning more than $1 billion per year - and has been leaked to the press after being circulated among GOP staffers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
NEW: GOP lawmakers are circulating a memo of legislative options to rein in Big Tech following the CEO hearing last month:https://t.co/l8zM39aDCo— Ylan Q. Mui (@ylanmui) April 15, 2021
Among the highlights:— Ylan Q. Mui (@ylanmui) April 15, 2021
•Target companies w/$1B+ revenue
•Carve out Big Tech from Sec. 230, especially if they use targeted behavioral advertising
•Require five-year “authorizations”
•Require appeals process
Rs also want to expand protections for kids and enhance disclosures, with focus on mental health.— Ylan Q. Mui (@ylanmui) April 15, 2021
This was a surprising focus of GOP questioning at CEO hearing last month, when @cathymcmorris called social media platforms "her biggest fear" as a parent.
Most critically, the memo - which is the first sign of a new GOP effort to take on big tech following the latest round of Congressional Hearings - calls for reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Measures discussed include scrapping its provisions entirely, or imposing a 5-year reauthorization period. It would also require social media companies responsible for moderating and "addressing" illegal drug sales, child exploitation, harassment, terrorism and counterfeit goods, with the risk of an FTC enforcement fine if they fail.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
Though it's merely an outline from which staffers will ideally craft a full-fledged bill, it also marks the first action from GOP after lawmakers interrogated the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter Inc in late March over misinformation on their platforms.
Among other measures, the memo calls for limiting the "right of exclusion" - that is, the ability of social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to ban users (with President Trump's still-ongoing social media ban still in effect). The measure would classify these companies as "places of public accommodation".
While the reform plan would make social media companies liable for content on their platforms, it also calls for plenty of wiggle room for big tech companies who do attempt to moderate users' content.
When big tech does target users, the law would require tech firms to allow unhappy users the ability to easily appeal decisions made to censor them.
Moving to the subject of transparency, the plan would require Big Tech firmsto submit a detailed description of their content management policies to the FTC, including information about how they were developed, any changes to such policies, the processes for making content decisions, and a clear and timely appeals process for challenging content that is flagged, removed, or altered.
Cooperation with law enforcement would be made mandatory for the tech firms. Not only would the firms be responsible for creating easy to use resources for users to report potential safety threats, but the platforms would be made liable to report any criminal activity, or suspicions of criminal activity, to the company.
Readers can find the full memo below: