For nearly two decades, Silicon Valley made net neutrality its highest policy priority. Under the banner of a “free and open” internet, Google, Facebook, and Twitter sought regulations to ensure the uninterrupted flow of information by treating every bit equally. Or so they said.
Beginning last Friday night, these firms and others executed an unprecedented digital purge of the social media and video accounts of their political rivals. After several years of accelerating suspensions and suppressions, this time YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter permanently banned a number of high-profile conservatives and deplatformed thousands of others, at least temporarily. Many of these accounts had nothing to do with last Wednesday’s heinous events at the Capitol. Yet their histories are erased.
Many Twitter users are vowing to leave the platform after President Donald J. Trump was permanently banned from using the service Friday evening.
“Twitter bans Trump, but won’t check communist Chinese propaganda defending brainwashing & forced sterilizations of minorities,” the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans said, adding the hashtag #twexit.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation authorizing direct cash payments of $2,000 Tuesday, but with a catch to which Democrats will likely object.
The bill combines $2,000 payments with a repeal of Section 230, a provision that grants social media companies liability protections against content users post on their platforms, and the establishment of a commission to study allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
President Trump on Wednesday followed through on his threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, calling it a “gift” to China and Russia that also lacks the reforms he sought to rescind legal liability shields for technology companies provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) against the U.S. Department of Commerce seeking access to communication records of conservative individuals and groups that are fighting to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Their FOIA request with Department of Commerce sub-agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) targets “emails, text messages, and other communications from NTIA Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Adam Candeub, who was recently named to a senior position at the Department of Justice, and others.”
In the wake of allegations of big tech companies suppressing political speech and news stories on their platforms, Republican senators and congressmen introduced legislation to amend Section 230, part of a federal code that regulates third-party content on the internet.
Federal Communication Communications (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai also weighed in on Thursday after senators announced they were subpoenaing Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey.
Amazon, Twitter, and other major tech companies are facing intense criticism on antitrust issues and censorship claims in the months since government officials reportedly began asking for help from Silicon Valley on ways to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The president and lawmakers have turned their sights on Twitter and Amazon, respectively, while Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other attorneys general are reportedly ratcheting up their antitrust investigation targeting Google’s business model. The White House asked them in March to fight coronavirus disinformation while also assisting the government in its virus response.