The bill senior Republicans introduced this month to ban federal officials from pressuring social media companies to censor speech has some experts concerned it could hamper government efforts to fight against online content widely perceived as harmful, including threats to public safety.
Republicans say the bill is designed to protect free speech on social media, but language directing officials not to use their authority or influence to ‘promote’ or ‘advocate’ the removal of content raises concerns. questions about how those terms would be defined and whether public officials could themselves be muzzled.
Federal warnings about Russian disinformation online, health concerns resulting from online behavior and public safety could, given the reach of federal officials, be interpreted as pressure on platforms to remove such content, experts say in technology policy.
“It’s kind of a half-baked messaging bill more than something that’s carefully crafted policy. There are so many ramifications of something going so far,” said Cheyenne Hunt, the defender of the big tech liability for consumer advocacy group. Public citizen.
James R. Comer, R-Ky., who heads the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, is the sponsor of the bill, reintroducing a measure he first proposed in the last Congress. He said in a statement that this was to prevent the Biden administration “from bullying social media companies into censoring certain opinions and news.”