Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed three solutions to Silicon Valley’s censorship practices: regulation, antitrust, and policing big tech’s fraud during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Sen. Cruz held a hearing on big tech censorship and proposed three dynamic solutions to the Silicon Valley’s censorship practices, contending that the big tech companies have more power than Standard Oil or the old AT&T telephone monopoly.
Cruz three solutions include:
- Amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
- Antitrust measures to address big tech’s dominant status on the Internet.
- Addressing potential cases of fraud and deception.
“No one wants to see the federal government regulating what is allowed to be said, but there are at least three potential remedies that can be considered by Congress or the administration or both,” Cruz said.
The Texas Republican suggested that they could amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which regulates social media companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter as neutral platforms, although these companies have decided to make editorial and political decisions regarding content on their platforms. For instance, Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram decided to define the “truthiness” on the alleged dangers of vaccines and subsequently banned anti-vaccine content on their platforms.
Further, Facebook decided to ban “white nationalist” and “white separatist” content on their platforms, even though they continue to allow content from Antifa and other controversial groups on their platforms.
Sen. Cruz said that Section 230 amounts to a “special immunity” for social media companies that they received in the 1990s because they were understood to be “neutral public fora,” that they would simply host content, not regulate the content on its platforms and not engage “in their own political advocacy.”
“If Big Tech wants to be partisan and political speakers it has that right, but it has no entitlement to a special immunity from liability under Section 230 that the New York Times doesn’t enjoy, that the Washington Post doesn’t enjoy, that nobody else enjoys except for Big Tech,” Cruz added.
Cruz suggested that the federal government could use antitrust laws to address Silicon Valley’s dominant status on the Internet.
Google has approximately 90 percent of web search traffic, whereas in digital advertising, Google and Facebook amount to nearly two-thirds of American digital ad spending, with Amazon at a “distant third” at under nine percent.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recently sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against big tech’s potential anticompetitive behavior and alleged privacy violations.
The second potential avenue for Big Tech is antitrust laws. Applying the antitrust laws is complicated but by any standard measure, the big tech companies are larger and more powerful than the Standard Oil was when it was broken up. They’re larger and more powerful than AT&T when it was broken up, and if we have tech companies using their monopoly to censor political speech, I think that raises real antitrust issues.
The Texas Republicans’ third remedy would include potential cases of fraud, contending that when users post on Facebook, Google, and Twitter, they believe that their followers will hear their political speech.
Sen. Cruz said:
The third potential avenue of remedy is under principles of fraud. Most users of Facebook, Twitter, Google, when they use those services they don’t envision they’re participating in a biased fora— they believe that when they speak they people that choose to follow them will hear what they say and there are distressing pieces of evidence that suggest that’s not the case.
The FTC could litigate potential cases of fraud and deceptive practices, to which the agency could levy fines against companies that engage in unfair or deceptive practices.
The Republican senator then said that, unfortunately, many lawmakers, conservatives, and Republicans often have to use anecdotal evidence of bias and censorship because there remains no transparency surrounding the social media companies’ blocking, shadowbanning, and censorship practices.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai proposed that America should think about whether the country should enact “transparency” requirements on social media companies’ censorship practices. Pai noted that Internet services providers (ISPs) have to comply with similar standards regarding their blocking, throttling, and prioritization standards.
“No one knows the raw data in terms of bias,” Cruz said.
Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.