Earlier this week, President Trump announced filing his class-action lawsuit in federal court against Big Tech companies that allegedly misuse the First Amendment to censor conservative speech on their platforms. House Republicans in Congress set out on July 7 their plans for legislative changes that can make those same companies more responsible to users.
The plan was released by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. The legislation would focus on antitrust litigation and is designed to “speed up and strengthen antitrust enforcement, hold Big Tech accountable for its censorship, and increase transparency around Big Tech’s decisions.”
The overall plan includes various proposals from GOP members and hopes to include provisions that will find bipartisan support in the House and Senate. Antitrust legislation typically provides governmental and private remedies in federal court when companies use monopoly power to stifle competition or to fix prices at uncompetitive levels.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) included a proposal to take governmental enforcement of the antitrust statutes from the Federal Trade Commission and place it with the Department of Justice, where most legal prosecutions begin. Another change proposed would make it easier to get antitrust appeals directly before the U.S. Supreme Court from federal trial courts.
The focal point of the package is on social media regulation, where the plan would attempt to prevent and punish subjective content moderation or censorship decisions. The legislative target would necessarily be Section 230, the federal law that has been in the news frequently since virtually all social media companies banned President Trump in January while still in office as the sitting president.
Section 230 generally provides a liability shield to social media companies to censor content or ban users. As it stands, the law prohibits any lawsuits from going forward at all. The proposed changes would remove the broad immunity and make it possible for private parties to bring legal cases against the Big Tech companies.
Jordan’s approach still has a long way to go before any initiatives are ready for a House floor vote. In response to queries about approving any measures for a vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated that there are disagreements among House Democrats on the proposals.