Democrat Amy Klobuchar Tricks Republicans Into Backing Leftist Tech Agenda

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), waves as she departs a U.S. Senate Rules Committee Georgia Fiel
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Republicans are desperate for policy solutions to the issue of Big Tech, so much so that they’re allowing the Democrat point woman on tech regulation, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), to dupe them into supporting a leftist, pro-censorship agenda.

The latest victim is Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), who has somehow been persuaded by Sen. Klobuchar to support the NUDGE Act, which is nothing more than a pro-censorship bill.

Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WYO) attends a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee nomination hearing for Michael Stanley Regan to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC, on February 3, 2021. (Photo by Caroline Brehman / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CAROLINE BREHMAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WYO) (CAROLINE BREHMAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

When Republicans held the majority in 2017 and 2018, they made no effort to introduce bills that would address the problem of Big Tech censorship. Now that Democrats hold the majority, they are signing onto bills that would make the problem even worse.

The NUDGE Act would give the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), a federal agency staffed by the leftist scientific establishment, the ability to recommend sweeping design changes to Big Tech platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to “reduce the harms of algorithmic amplification and social media addiction.”

The FTC — now staffed by far-leftist, pro-censorship wackos like Meredith Whittaker — would then get to impose those recommendations on the tech platforms, which would not have the option to say no.

“My goal is to fully understand the impact the designs of social media platforms and their algorithms have on our society,” said Sen. Lummis in a comment to Breitbart News.

“From promoting Dr. Fauci content while censoring my colleague Rand Paul, unregulated social media giants are putting their thumb on the scales of information sharing while simultaneously ignoring the real harms they are causing to their users through design choices they implement.”

In detailed comments to Breitbart News, an aide to Sen. Lummis also defended the bill.

The aide said the Senator remains concerned about the political leadership of the FTC, which is why she voted against the confirmation of its current chairwoman, Lina Khan, but that these concerns are outweighed by the real-world harms caused by social media, particularly on children. The aide also noted that the FTC’s role would be limited to deciding whether or not to mandate NAS recommendations.

The aide argued that the sweeping design changes that the NAS would be able to recommend are restricted to “content agnostic” ones, meaning they cannot target individual posts or accounts.

The aide stressed that Sen. Lummis is also aware of the liberal biases of agencies like the NAS, and that these agencies would not be empowered to content moderate, and that the purpose of the bill is to reduce social media addiction, and the influence of bots, not target political speech.

But the argument that the bill is limited to addressing social media addiction was undermined by Sen. Klobuchar herself, who says the bill targets “algorithms pushing dangerous content that hooks users and spreads misinformation.”

Public Knowledge, a left-wing think tank supporting the bill, concurred, saying the primary purpose of the legislation is to address “the promotion of misinformation,” and that the NAS will be empowered to “study tools to reduce the spread of misinformation.”

“Misinformation” is a leftist buzzword that has been almost exclusively used to promote the censorship of conservatives on tech platforms.

The term was barely mentioned in the media or in Silicon Valley prior to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, but since then has been written into the content moderation rules of every major tech platform.

Those policies have since been used as an excuse to censor countless conservative and libertarian voices, including Reason Magazine, Ron Paul, Sky News Australia, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro., and of course, President Trump.

Donald Trump faces Google censorship

Donald Trump faces Google censorship (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

The National Academy of Sciences, the agency that would be empowered by this bill, seems equally preoccupied with the problem of “misinformation.” The organization held no fewer than three events aimed at suppressing “misinformation” in 2020.

It even has a “fact checking” department called “based on science,” structured along similar lines to the social media fact-checkers that have repeatedly been weaponized against conservatives in recent years.

The NAS fact-checker seems just as determined to parrot left-wing narratives as media fact-checkers, claiming among other things, that “global warming” causes breathing problems.

An excerpt from the National Academy’s website reveals some of the woke priorities advanced by the agency, in the form of an “edit-a-thon,” a mass-editing of the notoriously leftist online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

This is a type of event that has become popular among leftist academics and activists seeking to advance their narratives on the influential website.

Via the National Academy of Sciences:

A session each day was also devoted to improving the biographies of women scientists on Wikipedia — an effort prompted by the fact that, despite recent progress, women still account for fewer than 20% of profiles on the site. The gender gap was part of what inspired Brittany Shepherd, a fellow at the National Institutes of Health, to participate. “When I started reading, I wasn’t sure what a Wikipedia edit-a-thon was — I’ve never actually edited a Wikipedia article before — and the more that I looked into it, the more I realized there were disparities in information, particularly in women’s profiles.”

This is the organization that would be empowered to recommend sweeping design changes to Big Tech platforms under the terms of the NUDGE Act — recommendations that the FTC could then make mandatory.

The bill says that these design changes must aim to “reduce the harms of algorithmic amplification,” and its preamble says the bill’s aim is to tackle the spread of “viral harmful content.”

But the bill does not define what counts as “harm,” leaving the term wide open for the NAS to interpret. Sen. Klobuchar, in line with the establishment media, progressive think tanks, academics, and the far-left whistleblower Frances Haugen, clearly believe that “misinformation” is the most important “harm” caused by social media.

Sen. Lummis’ aide also said that the NAS would not operate independently. It would have to submit its findings to Congress, which would then review it, and would have to rely on existing academic literature on social media harms instead of simply reaching its own conclusions.

But the existing academic literature focuses overwhelmingly on the need to censor tech platforms to prevent “disinformation.” Incentivized by liberal grant-making organizations, departments, and task forces studying “disinformation” sprung up at almost every major university after the 2016 election.

One study on “fake news” out of the Oxford Internet Institute claimed virtually every conservative news outlet, including Breitbart News, is “junk news,” while a bulletin from MIT last year identified Jack Posobiec, one of the most popular online conservative pundits, as a spreader of “disinformation.”

There are countless examples of the nation’s leading academic institutions obsessing over “misinformation studies,” a field that barely existed before Donald Trump’s win in 2016. Harvard, Stanford, Penn, and NYU are just a few examples.

The aide also stressed repeatedly that the NAS could only recommend “content agnostic” interventions in content sharing, i.e., measures that reduce the influence of bots, or to prompt users to read an article before reposting, regardless of the content of the article.

Making it harder for content to go viral on social media platforms (adding “friction,” as pro-censorship progressives call it) is a gift to old-school media like newspapers and TV broadcasters, and a punishment for podcasters, Substack authors, YouTubers, independent online journalists, and anyone else who relies on virality to get their message out.

In his comments to Breitbart News, the Lummis aide stressed that the bill does not prohibit algorithmic amplification, but did not deny that some of the measures, such as prompts to read an article, would reduce virality.

Friction is a gift to the old, offline media at the expense of new, online media. Under the terms of this bill, there will be no “friction” such as making it harder for CNN broadcasts to reach travelers in hotel and airport lobbies, but there will be friction making it harder for online content to go viral on social media.

This makes the NUDGE act similar to the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), another Klobuchar-led attempt to give old media companies an artificial advantage over their competitors on tech platforms — and another example of Sen. Klobuchar persuading Republicans to join her pro-censorship agenda.

This time, Sen. Klobuchar is being less subtle. The censorious goals of the NUDGE Act are far more obvious than the JCPA. The Senator is practically bragging about them.

In her press release announcing the bill, Sen. Klobuchar cited the war on coronavirus misinformation, and the testimony of leftist tech whistleblower Frances Haugen, (who was part of the same Facebook censorship team that suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story), as reasons for introducing the legislation.

The bill has been wrapped in “protect the children” language aimed to win over family values Republicans who are concerned about social media addiction among the young.

Still, after taking a brief look at the National Academy of Sciences, and the bill’s obvious purpose of censoring “misinformation,” it’s astonishing that even one Republican Senator thought it would be a good idea to lend Sen. Klobuchar their support.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.


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