House Republicans on Thursday outlined how far they are willing to go with legislation to rein in Big Tech companies, including classifying them as public facilities, restricting their legal protections, and prohibiting them from discriminating based on political affiliation.
The legislative concepts, unveiled within a GOP House Energy and Commerce memo of options under consideration released Thursday, are primarily focused on social media content moderation policies and Section 230 reform, the controversial 1996 law that gives platforms legal immunity for user-generated content.
The memo also outlines new protections for children online and requires Big Tech companies to work with law enforcement in certain instances in which safety and security have been violated or the law has been broken.
Republican staff described the memo as “a framework to bring much-needed reform and oversight to Big Tech.” Republicans have become more critical of the tech industry in recent years, accusing top companies, especially social media platforms, of pervasive bias.
The document defines Big Tech companies as social media platforms, app stores, and tech companies with an annual revenue of $1 billion and above. Republicans want legislation that classifies such Big Tech companies as “places of public accommodation,” or privately owned facilities that are used by the public at large and so are prohibited from discriminating based on characteristics such as race, religion, nationality, and political affiliation or view.
The memo asks that Big Tech companies implement reasonable content moderation practices for illegal content such as child pornography and trafficking, drug sales, terrorism, and counterfeit products.
It also asks to limit tech companies’ legal protections under Section 230 to “only provide liability protection for moderation of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment or specifically listed in the statute.”
Big Tech companies that are given authorization for Section 230 legal protections should have to apply for this privilege every five years, according to the memo.