The following statement is attributed to Michael Petricone, sr. vice president, government affairs, Consumer Technology Association (CTA), regarding Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) bill that would end Section 230 provisions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996:
“The First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy, and the right to freely exchange ideas has helped make us the most innovative country in the world. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the core, common-sense principle that responsibility for online speech should lie with the speaker, rather than the host. It paved the way for America’s global technology leadership – enabling American companies to provide the world’s default platforms for communication, business and entertainment.
“Sen. Hawley’s bill would gut the U.S. internet ecosystem by removing Section 230 protection from popular platforms unless they receive a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ‘certification of political neutrality.’ Companies would be forced to apply for certification every two years, and re-certification would require the votes of four of five FTC commissioners.
“This bill is almost certainly unconstitutional and would allow an unprecedented level of online censorship by creating a ‘speech license’ – letting political appointees decide what online speech is appropriate under vague definitions and standards. It’s better-suited to a country such as China, where online expression is subject to government approval and whim. In fact, Chinese online companies should be cheering this bill, which would hand them global market share and influence by weakening their American competitors. The losers will be the U.S. economy, a vibrant internet and everyone who relies on free speech.
“The Hawley bill would create bizarre incentives for internet platforms. In an attempt to prove 'neutrality,' they would be forced to massively censor all political speech or halt content moderation entirely and allow free reign to violent extremists, Nazis and other repugnant actors. More, if the Hawley bill became law, large platforms would be forced to distort themselves to please whatever party controls the FTC.
“We are a nation of free expression and free markets, where the government does not police the views of private actors. I cannot recall a more blatantly repressive legislative proposal in my career. We urge the Senate to reject this anti-free speech, anti-innovation bill.”