Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is one of the key legal devices that allow big tech companies to censor with impunity. Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and the Trump administration are among the Republicans who have criticized the law. Why then is the White House strengthening its provisions internationally?
A provision in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the trade bill that the Trump administration wants to replace NAFTA, would entrench a stronger version of those protections in international law.
The law allows tech companies to censor any content they consider “objectionable” or “harmful.” This is similar to Section 230, but broader, because unlike Section 230, USMCA offers no definition of what “objectionable” content might be, giving tech platforms broad leeway to interpret the law as they see fit.
Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers is criticizing the Trump administration for failing to consult them on the inclusion of the provision in USMCA.
Acccording to The Hill, both the Democrat Chairman of the House Energy Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and the Republican ranking member, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) are pushing the administration to reconsider its position on USMCA’s big tech protections.
Rep. Pallone said:
Ranking Member Walden and I wrote to the Ambassador in August raising concerns about why the USTR has included this language in trade deals as we debate them across the nation, and I was hoping to hear his perspective on why he believes that is appropriate,” Pallone said.
“Including provisions in trade agreements that are controversial to both Republicans and Democrats is not the way to get support from Congress. Hopefully, Ambassador Lighthizer will be more responsive to bipartisan requests in the future.
And Rep. Walden said:
The USTR does not appear to be reflecting the scrutiny the Administration itself is applying to how CDA 230 is being utilized in American society, making it even more alarming for the USTR to be exporting such policies without the involvement of this committee.
Rep. Walden called on the administration to “consult with our committee in advance of negotiating” on international legal protections for big tech in USMCA.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.