PRO-SPEECH Act is really just more intrusive big government
A new piece of legislation called the PRO-SPEECH Act is now making the round sin the Senate, and its creator, Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker, assures the world the bill will stop Big Tech from “controlling online speech.” Wicker said the bill will:
…preserve internet freedom, promote competition, and protect consumers from these blatantly biased practices. It is time for Congress to act to ensure the internet can be an open forum where diverse views are expressed.
Who could possibly be for censorship and against freedom? No one, which is exactly why Wicker’s statement includes these buzzwords. Were his bill to become law, Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes, it would transfer enormous power to the state, and do tremendous violence to the First Amendment:
The bill would…take aim at freedom of association and free markets, disallowing some tech services—such as app stores and cloud computing companies—from choosing what products they offer or what businesses they’ll contract with.
…the so-called PRO-SPEECH Act strikes at the heart of First Amendment protections, compelling companies under threat of sanction from the government to platform messages they otherwise wouldn’t.
Essentially, Wicker’s bill is “net neutrality” legislation—something that was vehemently opposed by Republicans of yore—but for online content platforms, search engines, and marketplaces rather than internet service providers. The bill would make it illegal for digital entities to block or impede access to “any lawful content, application, service, or device” that doesn’t interfere with platform functionality or “pose a data privacy or data security risk to the user.”
The bill would also explicitly ban taking action against a user based on “political affiliation.” Tech companies could no longer choose to ban, for instance, Nazi content or decline to host web forums devoted to white supremacist political groups. Web forums couldn’t choose to be exclusively for conservative users, or progressive users, or so on.
The political class seems to have no idea how the internet works, which may (possibly) be excusable. What isn’t excusable is a political class that insists on using state power to suffocate markets, punish innovation, and curtail freedom of expression and freedom of association.