Press Release | June 23, 2021

First Amendment Freedoms Hang in the Balance, Says CTA’s Shapiro

Laura Ambrosio

Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® President and CEO Gary Shapiro discussed the importance of protecting free speech online and how certain policy proposals conflict with the First Amendment, during the Media Institute’s Virtual Communications Forum. 

As policymakers seek to regulate content moderation on social media and internet platforms, Shapiro discussed how limiting freedom of expression online will affect user-generated comments and reviews, small businesses and startups.  

“Members of both political parties want to make internet platforms responsible for user generated comments and reviews. This is akin to making hotel owners responsible for guest behavior. Creating this liability given the huge amount of postings would severely crimp the value of these services and lead to an onslaught of opportunistic trial lawyer lawsuits.” 

He also shared his vision on what the government can do to balance concerns about disinformation, competition and transparency, while avoiding mandates that suppress America’s free speech foundations and economic competitiveness. 

"We can and should provide clear and reasonable guardrails that give American companies legal certainty. They should not have to ask the government for permission to create and try new things. But they must be willing to correct, accept and avoid infringing on IP, and defaming and slandering others. This means having a process in place to correct or remove postings once platforms learn of legitimate and clear challenges. We should encourage U.S. internet platforms to be more transparent about their content moderation decisions and give people more control over what they see on their feeds.” 

He concluded with the solutions that technology provides, and the need for collaboration between policymakers and innovators. 

“Innovation is changing the world. We are advancing quickly in health care, education, AI, robotics and self-driving vehicles, as well as content creation, delivery and predictive intelligence. We must move from less productive debates on shutting-off speech to more productive discussions.” 

View the full video recording of the event here