Republicans Announce That If Content Moderation Is Written Out Of Antitrust Bills, They’ll Pull Their Support
from the told-ya dept
For a while now, as Democrats have insisted that the two main antitrust bills that have been able to scrape together bipartisan support won’t have any impact on content moderation, we keep pointing out that the only reason they have Republican support is because Republicans want it to impact content moderation. After all, Ted Cruz was practically gleeful when he talked about using this bill to “unleash the trial lawyers” to sue over moderation.
Earlier this week, we cheered on a proposal from four Democratic Senators, led by Brian Schatz, to add a tiny amendment to the AICOA bill to say that it can’t be used to create liability for content moderation. If, as Senator Amy Klobuchar and others supporting this bill (including my friends at EFF and Fight for the Future) are correct that this bill already cannot be abused to enable litigation over content moderation, this amendment shouldn’t be a problem. All it would be doing is clarifying that the bill doesn’t do exactly what those supporters say it shouldn’t be read to do.
Except… the Republicans can’t help themselves but to give up the game. The Federalist, not generally the most trustworthy of news sources — but generally a reliable mouthpiece for Trumpist Republicans — ran an article about the Schatz proposal, saying flat out that Republicans would pull their support for AICOA if the minor amendment Schatz suggested is included.
First, lets remind everyone how simple the proposed amendment is:
Protection for Content Moderation Practices.—Nothing in section 3(a)(3) may be construed to impose liability on a covered platform operator for moderating content on the platform or otherwise inhibit the authority of a covered platform operator to moderate content on the platform, including such authority under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, section 230(c) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 230(c)), or any other provision of law.
That’s it. If you don’t think this bill can or should be used to sue over content moderation, then this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you do think websites should be sued for their editorial discretion, well… then it’s a problem. And according to the Federalist, it’s a real problem. It notes that this Amendment would kill the only “conservative or populist ideas along for the ride” on the bill.
In other words, it’s flat out admitting that, as we’ve been saying all along, the only reason Republicans support the bill is that they see it as a Trojan Horse to sue over content moderation decisions.
And thus, the Federalist notes that nearly all Republicans supporting the bill would walk if this tiny Amendment is included:
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the lead Senate sponsor of the bill, has reportedly already promised Republicans will walk if the changes are made, and he’s right: Populists and conservatives like Sens. Josh Hawley, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Rep. Matt Gaetz would flee.
As if to confirm that Republicans will bail if the law is explicit that it doesn’t do what supporters of the bill insist it doesn’t do, Rep. Ken Buck (who is the lead Republican sponsor of the companion bill in the House) tweeted out the Federalist article, implying that he, too, would bail if the bill is clarified to say it has no impact on content moderation:
So, there you have it. Supporters of the bill can deny all they want that the bill can be used to sue over content moderation decisions, but the Republicans are flat out telling them that the only reason they support the bill is because they believe it can be used to sue over content moderation decisions.
Honestly, that should make supporters of the bill think hard about what it is they’re actually supporting here.