Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bill that would strip big tech companies of their Section 230 immunity if they use or enable manipulative, behavioral advertising.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act currently protects tech companies from liability for unlawful content that users post on their platforms. But the Behavioral Advertising Decisions Are Downgrading Services (BAD ADS) Act, which Hawley announced on Tuesday, would remove that protection for large platforms that use tactics like tracking users’ past location or creating personal psychological profiles to target them with ads that match their online behavior and history.
“Big tech’s manipulative advertising regime comes with a massive hidden price tag for consumers while providing almost no return to anyone but themselves,” Hawley said. “From privacy violations to harming children to suppression of speech, the ramifications are very real.”
This isn’t the first time Hawley has gone after big tech. In June, he introduced a bill that would enable users to sue platforms for “selectively censoring political speech.”
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In August 2019, Hawley also proposed a bill, the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act, that would prohibit social media platforms from using “infinite scroll or auto refill” and engagement-related awards, in an effort to combat excessive use of social media.
Two months before that, Hawley introduced the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, which would only grant Section 230 immunity to big tech companies that could show their content moderating practices were not politically biased.
Hawley isn’t the only lawmaker critical of Section 230. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler introduced a bill in June that would remove liability protections for platforms that censor free speech. Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham have also indicated that they would support pulling back some of the protections for big tech companies if censorship continues.
Meanwhile, the House Antitrust Subcommittee will hear from the heads of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple on Wednesday. Conservatives expect the hearing to be an opportunity to discuss growing concerns about censorship by social media platforms.