Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) again criticized the USMCA trade agreement for its retrenchment of legal immunities for big tech companies, which allow companies like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to censor at will, during a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee.
The protections for big tech, outlined in Chapter 19 of USMCA, have come under increasing criticism from Republicans who otherwise support the President’s flagship trade bill.
“I intend to support the USMCA because trade is critical to jobs and millions of jobs in the state of Texas. But, I think it was a serious mistake to include this gratuitous provision,” said Sen. Cruz.
“Chapter 19 on digital trade contains a section that mirrors section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 provides nearly blanket immunity for technology companies for third party content they host on their platform. This liability protection has allowed Big Tech to act with impunity, to engage in censorship of Americans whose political opinions they don’t like and not to face liability for their conduct.”
The Texas senator went on to explain how big tech companies have appointed themselves the arbiters of political speech on the internet, citing Breitbart News’ bombshell publication of “The Good Censor,” a document from inside Google that admits to an industry-wide “shift towards censorship.”
“When Congress provided this special immunity — which no other industry on earth enjoys — it was with understanding that the companies would carry everyone’s speech without favoring any specific viewpoint. That’s clearly not happening. Big Tech has made the decision instead, as one Google document put it, to become quote: “the good censor,” and actively censors speech from citizens of which they disagree with.”
“This inclusion [of Chapter 19] was perceived by many to be a gift to Big Tech,” said Sen. Cruz.
As Breitbart News reported in December 2018, USMCA actually strengthens the power of tech companies to censor material they consider objectionable:
Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube all engaged in pre-election censorship against Republicans and Trump supporters. Yet they’ve managed to sneak a liability protection into President Trump’s trade bill that would make it even easier for them to censor their own users.
USMCA entrenches the tech giants’ legal protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grant them legal immunity for user-generated content. This is an important part of the law that allows tech platforms to host a wide variety of speech with light-touch moderation.
But USMCA also entrenches tech companies’ right to censor without liability. Article 19.17 of the trade agreement gives tech companies immunity from any lawsuits arising from actions taken to “restrict material it considers to be harmful or objectionable.”
Sen. Cruz has been pressuring the White House on this issue for some time. As reported by Breitbart’s Sean Moran, the senator recently wrote to U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, warning that USMCA would make it difficult to stop big tech companies from censoring U.S. citizens.
“If this language remains in these trade agreements,” wrote Cruz, “elected officials will face a terrible dilemma: either abandon efforts to hold big tech companies accountable, or revise Section 230 and put the United States in breach.”
Are you an insider at Facebook, YouTube, Google, Reddit or any other tech company who wants to confidentially reveal wrongdoing or political bias at your company? Reach out to Allum Bokhari at his secure email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.