Senators Introduce PROMISE Act Targeting Political Bias in Big Tech Companies

February 26, 2021 Updated: February 26, 2021

Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) on Feb. 24 introduced new legislation targeting political bias in big tech companies.

The PROMISE Act (pdf), which stands for Promoting Responsibility Over Moderation In the Social-media Environment Act, is designed to hold big tech companies accountable to their promises to not operate their social medial platforms with political bias, according to a news release from Sen Lee’s office.

Specifically, the act would require big tech companies to disclose their moderation policies to the public including: categories of information not permitted on their platform or subject to moderation, the process used in moderating content, and the notification process used to inform users of a moderation action taken as well as the reason for the decision.

The moderation policies must be “in plain, easy to understand language” and explain the “information regarding the business practices of a covered entity with respect to the standards, processes, and policies of the covered entity on moderating information provided by a user or other information content provider.”

The act also prohibits tech companies from making a “deceptive policy statement” that is misleading or likely to interfere with “reasonable” actions from users.

Violations of the PROMISE Act would result in penalties enacted by the Federal Trade Commission.

“The billionaires who own our nation’s Big Tech companies have every right to be partisan political actors,” Sen. Lee said.

“They do not have the right to tell consumers that they will provide unbiased platforms, and then use those same platforms to discriminate against Americans with opposing religious, philosophical, or political viewpoints.”

Tech firms are increasingly coming under tighter scrutiny worldwide.

Facebook faced a global backlash last week from publishers and politicians after it blocked news feeds in Australia in a dispute with the government over revenue-sharing.

Meanwhile, new laws proposed by Poland could implement massive fines for tech giants who censor users or remove posts for ideological reasons, the country’s Deputy Minister of Justice Sebastian Kaleta, told Fox News last week.

Under the new legislation, any platform that bans a user or removes posts for ideological reasons would face fines of $13.5 million unless the content is also illegal under Polish law. An arbitration committee will be set up to oversee disputes.

Hungary is also following Poland in the fight against social media censorship, with Justice Minister Judit Varga last month stating that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government will not tolerate intrusions on free speech.

In his PROMISE ACT guide (pdf), Lee pointed to a number of instances where Twitter, Facebook, and Google had suspended accounts, deleted posts, or targeted conservatives or Republicans in recent months, including Twitter blocking two damaging exposés from the New York Post on Hunter Biden’s dealings with Ukrainian and Chinese firms.

“Twitter has labeled, filtered, or tagged as ‘disputed’ countless tweets from conservative or Republican figures, while taking no action against their high-profile progressive or Democratic counterparts for similarly contentious claims,” Lee wrote.