Trump, DOJ take aim at Big Tech with reforms, lawsuit
The Trump administration took steps this week to beat back the tightening control of Big Tech over communications in the country and its abuse of First Amendment rights by coordinating discussions with state attorney generals regarding the rollback of legal immunity for internet companies for illegal content, especially content that involves abuse of children.
“President Donald Trump met with nine Republican state attorneys general on Wednesday to discuss the fate of a legal immunity for internet companies after the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the same law,” said Reuters.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) proposal would tone down the blanket immunity now enjoyed by big tech and provide penalties for companies that “willfully distribute illegal material or moderate content in bad faith,” to specifically include “offenses involving child sexual abuse, terrorism, and cyberstalking.”
Trump met with attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, as the DOJ prepares to file suit against Google for antitrust practices.
President Trump and Republican legislators have expressed alarm over the broad censorship that companies like Google and Facebook have exercised over conservative content and also the anti-trust actions of companies like Amazon that have favored their own products over those of competitors.
“[Trump also] said his administration is watching the performance of tech platforms in the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election,” says Reuters.
“In recent years, a small group of powerful technology platforms have tightened their grip over commerce and communications in America,” Trump said. “Every year countless Americans are banned, blacklisted and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules,” Trump said.
The DOJ proposal would need Congressional approval, but key Democrats like Elizabeth Warren have indicated the need to reign in internet companies’ anti-competitive practices and may go along with tougher immunity standards.
“There are several pieces of legislation doing the rounds in Congress that seek to curb the same immunity. It was not immediately clear whether the Justice Department will support any single piece of legislation already out there,” says the Economic Times.
But one GOP legislator is worried about the implications for free speech if Biden wins in November, saying, if anything, censorship will get worse.
“Under a Biden-Harris administration, I think censorship now becomes the order of the day,” U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told National Review. “Tech, they want to do it already, because it aligns with their political views. Tech is the capital of woke. . . . Google, for heaven’s sake, published a document internally last year called ‘The Good Censor,’ but this is how they see themselves. And I think they’ll become more brazen if Joe Biden wins.”
In the meantime, the DOJ expects to file its antitrust complaint against Google as soon as next week.
“Ensuring that the internet is a safe, but also vibrant, open and competitive environment is vitally important to America,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement this week about the proposed reforms.
PHOTO: Matt McClain | Reuters
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