Well that was quick. No sooner does Google censor the comments sections of two independent news sites than the US legislative machine moves to remove its own protections.
Axios has been all over this, reporting that the US Justice Department is urging Congress to limit the legal protections enjoyed by online platforms. Its urgings didn’t seem to have been published at time of writing, but the move was widely leaked to many media so it seems legit. The limits are somewhat, well, limited in so much as they target quite niche issues. This could, however, be an attempt to set the thin end of the wedge, thus allowing more profound changes to the law.
Also reported by Axios is proposed legislation by Senator Hawley, a long-time opponent of the protections enjoyed by internet platforms. We’re told he wants to introduce legislation that would give consumers grounds to sue internet platform companies over accusations of selective censorship of political speech. It includes vague criteria around the concept of ‘good faith’, so it looks like the legalese on this needs some tightening, but again this represents an attempt to chip away at the protected status of companies like Google.
All this proposed legislation feels very preliminary, but at the very least it’s a statement of intent from US lawmakers. Every time an internet platform acts to unilaterally censor on the basis of its own arbitrary criteria, it increases the demand that it be regulated. The purpose of regulation is to protect the free market and preserve competition. When near monopolists abuse their position, it’s right they should be held accountable.