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It should not come as a surprise that I am not a fan of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. He is part of a Big Tech oligarchy that looks down on Americans and our values. They use their vast fortunes and unchecked power to silence voices they disagree with, even as they cozy up to authoritarian regimes across the globe.
Remember when Twitter suspended a Chinese virologist who suggested the virus was man-made? And an article about Hunter Biden from America’s oldest newspaper? And even the president of the United States?
But we shouldn’t celebrate Dorsey’s departure because Twitter’s new chief is likely to be even worse.
In an interview last year, Parag Agrawal said Twitter’s “role is not to be bound by the First Amendment.” In fact, he openly acknowledged that Twitter’s role in censorship, saying, we need to “serve a healthy public conversation and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation.”
After Twitter’s board unanimously approved Agrawal’s promotion, Dorsey said the new chief’s “work over the past 10 years has been transformational.”
While Dorsey and other founding members of the oligarchy at least tried to pretend they weren’t putting their fingers on the scale, Agrawal is not bashful. In fact, he is remarkably clear about his goals.
In last year’s interview, he admitted that Twitter is “moving towards how we recommend content.” In other words, Twitter’s new CEO believes the platform is and should be acting as a publisher, which means, according to law, it is no longer eligible for Section 230 protections.
When lawmakers first wrote Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act in 1996—the same year the Palm Pilot was introduced to the world and a year before Google was even founded—Congress wanted internet companies to be able to host third-party content and engage in targeted moderation of the worst content without being responsible for what was written by others.
But Agrawal is explicitly saying that Twitter is engaged in sweeping content moderation, curation, and promotion. In that respect, the platform is now acting no differently than traditional publishers such as the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, which generally can be held accountable for false information.
The same should be true for Facebook, YouTube, and others, of course. All violate Section 230, but no regulator or court will take the steps necessary to enforce the law as Congress wrote two decades ago.
In addition to calling out our Big Tech oligarchy every chance we get, we must clarify the law so Big Tech’s army of lawyers, consultants, and lobbyists cannot wiggle around the rules. That is exactly what my DISCOURSE Act would do.
Under Section 230 as it is written today, Big Tech firms can get away with censoring Americans on the exceedingly vague basis of content being “otherwise objectionable.” My bill would dump that unacceptably vague language and replace it with concrete categories, like “promoting terrorism.”
Most importantly, my bill would broaden the scope of practices that make a company liable for content on its platform. Specifically, the DISCOURSE Act would remove protections for firms that engage in the following three destructive behaviors: first, manipulating algorithms to target users who have not requested or searched for the content; second, moderating users to promote or censor a specific viewpoint; and third, it would make providers responsible when they engage in information creation and development.
If a company establishes a pattern of these behaviors, my legislation would make it liable for all of the content on its site.
This is Twitter’s business model, and Parag Agrawal is going to double down. We need to inject long overdue accountability into the Big Tech oligarchy, and Agrawal’s comments are exhibit number one.
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