A new Senate bill would create a federal agency to police Americans’ speech for “misinformation” and “hate speech” if passed by Congress.
The bill was brought forth by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and is dubbed the Digital Platform Commission Act (DPCA). As the senator announced, the legislation would “create an expert federal body empowered to provide comprehensive, sector-specific regulation of digital platforms to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”
“The new Federal Digital Platform Commission would have the mandate, jurisdiction, and broad set of tools to develop and enforce thoughtful guardrails for a sector that has been left for too long to write its own rules, with serious consequences for everything from teen mental health to disinformation to anticompetitive practices that have hurt small businesses,” the senator argued.
“As a country, we should take pride that most of the world’s leading tech companies were founded in America. But they aren’t start-ups anymore. Today they rank among the most powerful companies in human history. It’s past time for a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to regulating digital platforms that have amassed extraordinary power over our economy, society, and democracy,” said Bennet. “We don’t have to choose between letting digital platforms write their own rules, allowing competitors like China and the E.U. write those rules, or leaving it to politicians in Congress. We should follow the long precedent in American history of empowering an expert body to protect the public interest through common sense rules and oversight for complex and powerful sectors of the economy.”
Five commissioners for the proposed Federal Digital Platform Commission would be chosen by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
It would be “staffed by experts with a background in areas such as computer science, software development, and technology policy.”
The Commission would have “a broad mandate to promote the public interest, with specific directives to protect consumers, promote competition, and assure the fairness and safety of algorithms on digital platforms, among other areas,” the senator’s statement added. “To fulfill its mandate, the Commission would have the authority to promulgate rules, impose civil penalties, hold hearings, conduct investigations, and support research. It could also designate ‘systemically important digital platforms’ subject to additional oversight, regulation, and merger review.”
Support for the Digital Platform Commission Act has been expressed by a number of professionals and organizations. Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, applauds the bill for reforming national regulations and establishing a flexible regulatory framework appropriate for the digital era.
Phil Weiser, the attorney general of Colorado, highlights the necessity of federal action and a legal framework to safeguard citizens online. The law is supported by the nonprofit group Public Knowledge because it takes a consumer-focused approach to keep web platforms accountable.
The Center for Humane Technology, specialists in communication and technology policy from Yale School of Management and Georgetown University, as well as other advocacy organizations, focused on the effects of digital platforms on democracy, youth, and public health, are additional supporters.
“The Digital Platform Commission Act builds the capacity a 21st-century democracy needs to align our rapidly changing digital landscape with public interest,” said the Center for Humane Technology.
As Reclaim the Net noted on Twitter, the bill would “empower a new federal agency to create a council that establishes ‘enforceable behavioral codes’ on social media platforms and AI. The council will include ‘disinformation’ experts.”
🚨 A new bill wants to empower a new federal agency to create a council that establishes "enforceable behavioral codes" on social media platforms and AI. The council will include "disinformation" experts. pic.twitter.com/m9MdSl9kda
— Reclaim The Net (@ReclaimTheNetHQ) May 18, 2023
“The bill also has age verification requirements,” Reclaim the Net added.
“This is unconstitutional, also evil and stupid,” Constitutional attorney Harmeet Dhillon bluntly remarked.
The law now lacks concrete protections for free speech and guarantees that the commission’s policies won’t unreasonably violate people’s constitutional rights. Instead, it relies on “experts” that the government has designated, who will presumably enforce narratives and laws that have been sanctioned by the state. Without strong protections for free expression, there is a danger that online dialogue will become less vibrant and that creativity and innovation would be stifled.
The Twitter Files, meantime, continue to compile evidence of the numerous violations of the right to free expression that “misinformation” and “hate speech” moderators at major tech firms perpetrate.
1. Twitter Provided Privileged Access to Banning Queen, Taylor Lorenz #TwitterFiles
Twitter engineer walking me through their reporting system, "Wow! She's a heavy user." pic.twitter.com/z7Y7q5OEyi
— Paul D. Thacker (@thackerpd) May 18, 2023
“Lorenz had more than special reporting access to get accounts banned,” journalist Paul Thacker reported. “When Tucker Carlson did a piece ridiculing her, Twitter put out an alert-‘We need to be careful with her’.”
Because of this particular privilege for “experts,” Americans have good reason to be suspicious of double standards and political bias.
In summary, the U.S. government cannot be entrusted to police the Internet for “misinformation.” As Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has pointed out, “The largest area of misinformation is coming from the government.”