-Ted Cruz proposes repealing the immunity of liability that social media companies enjoy if they’re going to continue to be politically biased instead of being neutral and fair. pic.twitter.com/VthmHtJ2Ax— The British Perspective 🇬🇧 (@ABritperspect) October 17, 2018
During a fierce debate between Senator Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke, Ted Cruz proclaimed some bitter truths about social media that have been dividing not only Republicans and Democrats, but the GOP itself. According to Heavy.com's coverage:
'I don’t believe Congress should be in the business of regulating content,' Cruz said. 'It’s not the government’s job to regulate content online. I’m very concerned…about the political bias of big tech … skewing and silencing the voices of those they politically disagree with…'
He talked about Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to the Senate. 'Even though Congress shouldn’t regulate the content… Right now big tech enjoys immunity from liability on the assumption they can be neutral and fair… If they’re going to be biased, we should repeal the immunity… The giant tech companies…if they’re abusing the market powers of monopoly, the antitrust laws should be enforced.'
What he is referring to here is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 is cited as one of the greatest protections of free speech on the internet. The chief excerpt reads:
"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
With those 26 words, the federal government established the regulatory certainty that has allowed today’s biggest internet companies to flourish. Without Section 230 — the popular theory goes — there could be no Facebook, Amazon, or Twitter. Yelp’s one-star reviews would have rendered it helpless against litigation from angry business owners, and Reddit’s anonymous trolls would have long ago invited a barrage of devastating libel lawsuits...
To explain how this works, MRCTV covered a previous incident where Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale cited this same act during the heat of public debates over tech censorship, to summarize Section 230,
[it] ensures that Twitter is designated as a platform, not as a publisher. This designation is important because it frees companies like Twitter or Facebook from legal repercussions for illegal activity that happens on their platforms. The rationale for this ideas was that platforms like Twitter serve as a public square for debate, '[offering] a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.' If Twitter is failing to live up to its role as a public forum of debate, and instead is acting as a publisher, it opens itself up to legal action by Congress.
In short, some liberals don't want to see the government hold Big Tech up to this standard because they like the monopoly of 'progressive' Silicon Valley elites serving as the gatekeepers to what goes viral, what jokes are or aren't allowed, and what is or isn't censored.
This issue was reported on by NewsBusters in their coverage of Google's leaked memo, "The Good Censor", where the company expounded upon its unique utopian task of censoring for their greater good. On the other hand, there are some Republicans and Libertarians who think that regulating businesses is a greater evil than censorship by private companies. The modern issue, however, is that these private companies act as soft monopolies whose censorship of information can have permanent, country shaping qualities.