“The American Innovation and Choice Online Act” looks like a bipartisan win because the legislation would allow smaller companies to compete with the four Internet giants: Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. That’s promising for consumers and entrepreneurs. It would also prohibit big tech from giving preference to their own products by placing them at the top of search results and bar businesses from restricting competitors’ access to data generated on their platforms.
At first glance this shows promise, but Republicans have slipped in a poison pill that will release a torrent of hate, conspiracy theories, and countless lawsuits.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) – along with Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) – have stalled the legislation by inserting language seemingly designed to protect and empower disinformation and misinformation, hate speech, harassment and platforms like Q-Anon.
In addition, it would also make it even harder to de-platform anyone who “breaks the rules.” Why? Because there would no longer be any rules. The GOP-backed language would allow – actually encourage – Republican state attorneys general to sue on behalf of anyone being de-platformed.
Because of the GOP’s mischief, the bill, co-sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), is worrying some Democrats. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are wavering.
Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) put it this way; “I agree with the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve here, but making sure the language is right matters…. The best example is making sure we’re not inadvertently facilitating hate speech.”
If the bill goes through with the GOP’s poison pill, it will clog the courts and promote more threatening (sometimes murderous) behavior.
Without guardrails, there will be more online chaos and hate. That is what Republicans want, because chaos and hate, combined with misinformation and disinformation, feed the beast that is today’s GOP base.
However, there is a price to pay for false, incendiary speech. If you scream fire in a theater, you disturb the peace and are subject to arrest and prosecution. And if you plot an insurrection on Facebook or take to YouTube to spread election fraud lies that endanger our democracy, there must be consequences.
The GOP poison pill won’t cure anything. It won’t make tech work better for users – the aim of the antitrust bill. Instead, as currently constituted, it will make the nexus of politics and technology even more toxic than it already is. The antitrust bill will actually destroy trust.