GOP Senator Wants to Hold Big Tech Responsible for Political Bias: 5 Things to Know About the New Bill

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has a new bill to address political censorship from tech giants, but not everyone is supportive of his attempts to regulate social media.

Many Republicans, including President Donald Trump himself, have criticized social media companies like Facebook for removing posts for what appears to be political reasons. While many conservatives have condemned big tech for censoring some online voices, not all conservatives support government intervention in online platforms.

Here are five things to know about Hawley’s “‘Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act.”

What’s the problem?

According to Hawley, the biggest problem in the tech industry is that there are no standards for which someone can be removed from a social media platform like Facebook. If there are standards, such as the terms of service, those rules can be unevenly enforced.

Watch Hawley grill Twitter about its protocols:

Hawley argues that Twitter and similar social media giants are targeting conservatives and censoring some political ideologies while protecting others. He pointed to several examples of pro-life pages and posts — including a quote from Mother Teresa — that were censored by Twitter while hateful content — including a comparison of Jewish people to termites by Louis Farrakhan — remain untouched.

What does Hawley’s bill do about it?

Hawley argues that Twitter and Facebook are acting like publishers by allegedly banning content from one political group but not the other. This distinction of “publisher” is important because it opens social media companies up for lawsuits based on the content they allow.

Social media platforms today are treated the same way phone companies are treated. Phone providers cannot be sued for defamatory statements made on their service because the phone line is only the tool for which the comment was made. No one approved or denied the comment, so the phone company is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter have had the same protections against lawsuits, arguing that they are not responsible for the content that is posted on their platforms. But Hawley doesn’t think that is the case.

He believes that by removing people and content, social media companies are acting as publishers.

Hawley’s bill “removes the immunity big tech companies receive under Section 230 unless they submit to an external audit that proves by clear and convincing evidence that their algorithms and content-removal practices are politically neutral.”

This bill would not impact “small and medium-sized tech companies.”

Why do some conservatives support it?

Hawley and other conservatives see this as the only way to hold social media companies’ feet to the fire on political censorship.

“There’s a growing list of evidence that shows big tech companies making editorial decisions to censor viewpoints they disagree with. Even worse, the entire process is shrouded in secrecy because these companies refuse to make their protocols public,” Hawley said in a statement. “This legislation simply states that if the tech giants want to keep their government-granted immunity, they must bring transparency and accountability to their editorial processes and prove that they don’t discriminate.”

Many agree with Hawley, including a nod from the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.

Why do some conservatives oppose it?

Many see government oversight of social media to be a bad idea. Social media companies are private businesses, and Hawley’s bill requires them to open up their processes to the government or risk being sued out of commission.

Some argue that Hawley’s requirement of “fairness” will allow government bureaucrats to toy around with the definition of fairness in a way that could result in government censorship.

Several have pointed out that Hawley’s effort to end political censorship of conservatives online could result in more censorship — but this time, it would be government officials making the decisions.

What do tech companies think about Hawley’s bill?

For obvious reasons, big tech companies and their associated groups are opposed to Hawley’s legislation, but smaller social media companies see it as an opportunity to break up the “big tech monopoly” that Twitter and Facebook have.

Gab, a social media company that paints itself as an alternative platform without the censorship of big tech, reached out to Hawley on Twitter — ironically — to announce its support for the bill.

For now, it isn’t clear if Hawley’s bill will get the support it needs to become law, but it has certainly sparked a conversation about the role that government should play in regulating social media.


  1. i know people that work at google their job is the prevent the reelection of donald trump orders come fromthe top their job is to block conservative speech i think whistleblowers are now coming out to testify about this hope they have some good lawyers if they are not an open platform, they should say so

  2. Making their methods and algorithms public is NOT censorship. Who and why they censor is important to making sure there is NOT one sided political censorship. As long as the govt doesn’t set standards, but simply requires transparency, I’m all for it.

  3. By interjecting themselves into these asinine debates the tech companies have brought this on themselves. They can’t have it both ways. Either they are not publishers and don’t regulate content or they do regulate content which makes them publishers. And if their duplicity isn’t bad enough by wanting to forge some sort of middle ground into that debate, the fact that their decisions are always so lopsided makes it perfectly obvious that their goal is censoring one political view in favor of another under the guise of altruism. How many well-known liberal or progressive commentators have been deplatformed, demonitized or blocked by “mistake”? It’s always one side that is determined to be “hateful” and it’s not until there is overwhelming public backlash that these tech companies decide that there was a “problem with their algorithm”, an “overzealous employee” or a “misinterpretation of their TOS” which caused a conservative voice to be removed. Has there been even one example of the same mistake being made with a high profile liberal voice? I’m sure there are a ton of liberals who have very little following that get banned routinely so that the tech companies can claim that statistically they are not favoring a political opinion. But it’s all a disguise. The tech companies just need to stop trying to police speech with bans on content that is offensive and get back to banning content which is illegal, because all speech is offensive to someone.

  4. Everyone agrees that these private businesses that have a right to moderate content to some degree. It seems reasonable, however, that if they are filtering content in a way to present only political, moral, and religious views that are consistent with their own that they are in effect creating a narrative… are they then not publishers? I don’t think that reasonable people can disagree, as a business becomes more and more involved in selecting content, at some point they become responsible for the content. We might differ on the exact point, but the concept is solid.

    Businesses certainly have the right to take control of their content, but they cannot have it both ways. If they operate as a publisher, they take on the responsibilities of a publisher.

    1. I agree, Brad. They are publishers. What is sad is that soooo many people believe anything they read without even thinking about it or trying to find out what their eyes are sending to their brains. ‘Mein Kampf’ as boring and self-serving as it is/was was a best-seller and Hitler left prison a rich man, and worse. Social-media is a horse of a different color and far more easily accessible than the printed word. Pay attention people! Brad is correct!!

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