Republicans Exploring Options to Hold Big Tech Accountable

Republicans Exploring Options to Hold Big Tech Accountable
Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) speaks to Sen. John Thune (R-SD) during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing with big tech companies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 28, 2020. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)
Bowen Xiao

Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee are exploring ways to follow up on a contentious big tech hearing days ago about how to ensure companies do not censor content due to political bias.

Conn Carroll, the communications director for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), told The Epoch Times that holding Big Tech accountable can take many forms and that Lee is "pursuing many of them." The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, and Google were grilled during the Oct. 28 hearing.

Lee's first action will be highlighting the public the differences between what the CEOs of these technology companies claim to be their company policies and what actions the companies actually take, Carroll said.

Looking into whether Big Tech uses their market power to undermine competition is another avenue Lee is taking, and examining whether current laws, like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, "are in need of reform or clarity" is another. Lee also believes there needs to be a balance when taking any major steps.

"There may be more actions that need to be taken or at least considered, but Senator Lee believes that any efforts by Congress to address big tech problems must receive robust debate and careful consideration as not to harm the internet ecosystem that has revolutionized commerce and the sharing of ideas," Carroll said.

Republican senators told The Epoch Times previously that big tech companies need to be questioned and held to account over what they see as political bias, such as the censorship of a New York Post article on Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Meanwhile the Department of Justice is urging lawmakers to consider taking up proposals to update Section 230, a federal law that provides liability protections to internet companies from being sued for its users’ posts. Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd made the case in an Oct. 27 letter to congressional leaders in which he also cites the recent suppression of a series of exposés by the NY Post about the business dealings of Hunter Biden.

"The events of recent days have made reform even more urgent. Today’s large online platforms hold tremendous power over the information and views available to the American people," the letter states. "It is therefore critical that they be honest and transparent with users about how they use that power. And when they are not, it is critical that they can be held accountable."

The Trump administration has been vocal about the need to change Section 230 in order to force internet companies to manage and moderate content on their platforms responsibly and fairly, and has accused online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter of engaging in censorship of certain viewpoints.

During the senate hearing, Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said in his opening statement that he’s concerned these platforms have “become powerful arbiters of what is true and what content users can access.” He rejected the notion that any criticism was due to partisan politics.

The president has often floated the idea of repealing Section 230 protections altogether.

“If Big Tech persists, in coordination with the mainstream media, we must immediately strip them of their Section 230 protections,” he said in an Oct. 15 Twitter post. “When government granted these protections, they created a monster!”
Janita Kan contributed to this report 
Bowen Xiao was a New York-based reporter at The Epoch Times. He covers national security, human trafficking and U.S. politics.
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