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The main components of the big-tech antitrust bill would allow smaller companies to compete with the Internet giants, creating a big win for consumers and entrepreneurs. But then Ted Cruz and other sedition caucus members decided to hold it hostage by inserting a provision that would open the floodgates of disinformation.
The intent of the legislation, officially known as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, is to level the tech playing field to allow more competition for the four tech giants (Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple). That part of the bill is good.
Unfortunately, in order to get it passed, the Democrats are taking a see-no-evil approach to a poison-pill provision that Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Matt Gaetz, and other members of the GOP sedition caucus. The language they have inserted in this bill would actually empower those who spread disinformation, misinformation, QAnon, and other conspiracy theories on Facebook and YouTube.
To top it off, the GOP-backed language allows Republican state attorneys general to sue on behalf of anyone being de-platformed. Yes, they’re opening the door to frivolous lawsuits – from the same attorneys general who supported baseless lawsuits to try to overturn the last election. They’ll be able – and eager – to sue on behalf of Parler, InfoWars, and Dennis “I got COVID on purpose” Prager.
Fortunately, disinformation experts, those who have worked tirelessly to rid the Internet of its most vile content, are speaking up. Free Press has warned:
“This provision could require platforms to host hate speech and other harmful content targeting Black and Brown people, the LGBTQIA+ community, women, immigrants, Indigenous people, and other targeted populations.”
So what is the result of the Democrats’ decision to Trump’s most sycophantic supporters – Hawley, Cruz and Gaetz – to insert this language and hold the rest of the bill hostage?
The result will be a torrent of hate, targeted harassment, and disinformation that will now be harder to regulate across multitudes of platforms.
We already know deplatforming works. Progressive activists worked tirelessly to force Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to follow their own rules about removing some of the worst repeat offenders of their hate speech bans. But that work will be much, much more difficult if the bill passes. Facebook and YouTube, already reluctant to kill their conservative cash cows, will have a new excuse to bring back Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, COVID misinformation, and relentless harassment.
The language in the bill means every hate group, pandemic denier, right-wing disinformer who had been kicked off because they abused the platforms will be allowed back on. It also means that the platforms will have even less reason to listen to victims, truth-tellers, and watchdogs that seek to hold big tech accountable. It means more lies and distortions in our increasingly polarized, chaotic world. It means more harassment and more radicalization by QAnon.
How did we get here? Democrats have again fallen in love with the notion of bipartisanship – even when that means unleashing QAnon, the return of Milo Yiannopoulos, more insane COVID causes (now it’s 5G, soon it’ll be 6G), and a bigger megaphone for White Nationalists, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and conspiracy theories.
There’s still time to remove the provision, remove the hate, and remove the naiveté.