Including American digital rules and regulations in trade agreements empowers American businesses to expand their reach internationally. The presence of Section 230 language in trade deals enables the U.S. to push back on foreign restrictions on speech and innovation, while lowering the costs of exporting for online entrepreneurs and making it easier for American small businesses to reach global customers. Trade agreements provide sufficient flexibility for Congress to continue to regulate in this area.
Yet some mistakenly hold concerns about the effect of putting Section 230 and other American internet rules into trade agreements.
So it’s time to clarify this misunderstanding.
Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of internet trade association NetChoice, which advocates for Section 230, said that part of the issue is the sheer amount of content that filters through the platforms. For example, Facebook’s moderators review more than 2 million pieces of content daily, according to a spokesperson, who also said by email that the company has tripled the number of people working on safety and security issues since 2016.
Today, NetChoice criticized a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that threatens free speech around the world.
The ruling would aim to force Facebook to remove content on its platform worldwide if it’s found to be illegal in Europe, regardless of whether the content is legal elsewhere.
“This ruling sets a dangerous precedent enabling illiberal countries to enforce anti-free speech laws beyond their borders,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice.
“As some foreign governments stifle free expression on internet platforms, it becomes even more important for the United States to protect and advance laws like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.”
“I’m glad the United States respects the right of citizens to criticize its leaders. Our founders knew such freedoms of speech are necessary to create a stable democracy.”
“Freedom of expression is core to Western, liberal democracies. Today’s EJC decision embraces the China-model of a closed internet, the model heralded by authoritarian governments.”
Earlier this month, Congressman Ed Case introduced a bill that would make finding accommodation on your next getaway more expensive—regardless of where you choose to stay.
Why? It turns out hotels don’t like your cheap stays with Airbnb and HomeAway, and they’re lining up behind this bill to run those platforms off the market.
The Hawaii Democrat calls it the “PLAN Act,” short for Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods. The bill would amend a crucial internet provision called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—the law that enables online services to host large amounts of user-created content without bearing liability for that content.
The bill is strongly opposed by NetChoice, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that brands itself as “a trade association of businesses who share the goal of promoting free speech and free enterprise on the net.”
Carl Szabo, the group’s vice president and general counsel, said passage of the bill would likely lead to companies ceasing “content moderation,” essentially opening up users to the potential for increased harassment, and would violate the First Amendment.
“It’s injecting government into private contract and private business,” Szabo said. “It has unintended consequences that we will begin to see. And fortunately, it’s unnecessary.”
“This bill creates a moral hazard by letting big hotel chains harass short term rental competitors, just so the big hotels can further increase their room rates,” says Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice, a trade association of e-commerce businesses. “Weakening Section 230 will damage Americans’ ability to communicate online. The bill empowers Marriott to stop us from lawfully earning rental income on our own homes.”
NetChoice Vice President Carl Szabo said, “Email service providers that hold themselves to be neutral would be unable to block spam because they would be, “shadow banning” spammers. So while this is an issue of important discussion, I don’t think HB 4801 is a way to address the concerns we’ve heard.”