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Wicker Social Media Bill Gets Carr Nod, NetChoice Concern

Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Roger Wicker, R-Miss., filed Thursday his Promoting Rights and Online Speech Protections to Ensure Every Consumer is Heard (Pro-Speech) Act. The bill was as expected (see our report here). It would regulate online platforms like common carriers. The measure would bar social media from actions against users based on racial, sexual, religious, partisan or ethnic grounds. It would bar platforms from blocking or discriminating against competing platforms by declaring such actions presumptively anti-competitive. It would let the FTC to use Section 5 authority to enforce the law. The Pro-Speech Act should “make it clear that these large internet tech platforms cannot discriminate based on their own opinions and based on what they think the public should and should not be allowed to hear,” Wicker told a news conference on Republicans’ concerns about Big Tech “censorship” related to the pandemic. “This is a serious, grave threat to freedom and the open exchange of ideas under” the Constitution. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr praised the legislation and believes it should be enacted in concert with Communications Decency Act Section 230 revamp. The bill “would give Big Tech a simple choice: either stop blocking people from posting and accessing lawful content or declare that you are acting as a publisher and accept the responsibilities that come with that status,” he said. It “would also bring much needed transparency to Big Tech’s practices and rein in their anticompetitive conduct.” NetChoice opposes the measure. It “may look like it checks some boxes for conservatives, but in practice it will make the internet impossible to use by forcing all of us to sift through the worst of the internet just to connect with our friends and family,” said General Counsel Carl Szabo in a statement. “The bill’s advocates have not thought through its wide array of harmful consequences like the simultaneous proliferation of hate speech, sexism, racism, and other types of awful but lawful content.”