Today, Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang released a slew of tech proposals, covering four main issues:
- Privacy and Consumer Data
- The Use of Technology, Especially by Young People
- Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
- Antitrust Enforcement and Tech
Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice pushed back on Yang’s proposals:
Privacy and Consumer Data
“The current online advertising model enables consumers to access high quality content and sophisticated services for free. Yang’s policy would create more paywalls around content and diminish the presence of free services.”
“On Yang’s internet we will have more paywalls and less content.”
“Americans support the current market structure. By a 3-to-1 margin Americans prefer online services to be funded by targeted advertising rather than paying for them directly.”
The Use of Technology, Especially by Young People
“The surge in access to technology and the internet in the 21st Century benefits us all every day – that’s why tech is so prevalent in society today.”
“For a candidate who claims to focus on “evidence-based policy,” Yang’s most outlandish claims lack evidence.”
“Rather than proposing knee-jerk policy responses to perceived problems, Yang should wait for more evidence on tech’s impact on children and not ignore a recent study that found no link between social media usage and negative impacts on mental health in teens.”
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
“We must dispel with this myth that because online services moderate user-created content, they are equivalent to the New York Times or the Washington Post. Unlike the journalists at the New York Times or Washington Post, Facebook doesn’t write posts and Twitter doesn’t write tweets — users do.
“The New York Times and the Washington Post’s comment section benefits from the same legal structure and protections as social media businesses.”
“Social media services moderate content to reduce the presence of hate speech, scams, and spam. Yang’s proposal to amend Section 230 would likely increase the amount of hate speech and terrorist content online.”
“Yang incorrectly claims a “publisher vs. platform grey area.” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not categorize online services. Section 230 enables services that host user-created content to remove content without assuming liability.”
Antitrust Enforcement and Tech
“We welcome Yang’s recognition that breaking up tech businesses wouldn’t benefit consumers. The role of antitrust and regulation in the U.S. is to protect consumers, not competitors of successful businesses.”
Today, NetChoice criticized the problematic statement made by presidential candidate Joe Biden last night that platforms should be responsible for false posts by their users.
“Candidate Joe Biden suggests we should suppress free speech and make Facebook and Google the arbiters of truth,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice.
“Holding Facebook liable for a user’s false statement is like holding CNN liable if candidate Biden made a false statement on their Town Hall last night.”
“I wonder if Biden thinks TV stations and newspapers should be liable for false claims in political ads they are paid to show, especially since these mediums are the majority of political ad spending.”
Yesterday, Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), unveiled The Filter Bubble Transparency Act. It’s a law that would force large websites to notify users if algorithms determine the order or origin of content the user sees. The bill would also mandate that these online services provide an alternative unsorted version of their news feeds.
“This bill would undermine efforts by platforms to stop the spread of hate speech, misinformation, and other harmful news and views — just as we’re going into an election year,” said Carl Szabo, General Counsel at NetChoice. “This bill could reverse progress made by platforms in response to concerns about online misinformation during our last election.”
“Algorithms are the latest boogey-man for tech critics, but algorithms are how websites determine the origin and order of content shown to users, based on interests shown by that user and others they may friend and follow.”
“Congress should let tech businesses determine how to best serve their users.”
Today, NetChoice raised concerns about the ACCESS Act, introduced today by Sen. Hawley (R-MO), Sen. Warner (D-VA), and Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT) that the bill is more focused on attacking big tech than protecting and empowering consumers.
“As presented in the ACCESS Act, data portability will inevitably endanger data security,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “Online hackers and criminals looking to steal consumer data will benefit from the ACCESS Act.”
“These government imposed data portability requirements would make consumer data more vulnerable to abuse.”
The bill could also undermine efforts by market leaders including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter, to introduce data portability in a way that empowers consumers without undermining privacy or data security.
The ACCESS Act only aims to regulate large tech businesses with over 100,000,000 active monthly users in the U.S. It also fails to include preemption.
“By only impacting the largest American businesses, the ACCESS Act is clearly focused more on attacking large tech innovators rather than creating a safe and secure portability system,” continued Szabo.
Petition Urges State Lawmakers to Reject the Proposed Moratorium on Facial Recognition
WASHINGTON – NetChoice, a trade association committed to the use of technology that fosters free enterprise and free expression, today launched a campaign to protect the use of new technologies, such as facial recognition, for law enforcement in Massachusetts.
The campaign is powered by new survey data to educate Massachusetts residents and political stakeholders about these technologies: how they enable law enforcement to maintain public safety, and that most of the public oppose an all-out ban on the use of this technology by law enforcement.
NetChoice is inviting stakeholders, community leaders, and members of the public to sign a petition urging Massachusetts state lawmakers to reject the proposed moratorium on facial recognition use for law enforcement.
“Every day facial recognition technologies help law enforcement to generate leads in cases, such as homicide, rape, armed robbery and other violent crime, as well as for non-enforcement reasons, including identifying elderly persons stricken with dementia, finding lost and missing children, identifying homeless persons with mental illness and identifying deceased persons,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel of NetChoice.
“A moratorium on facial recognition technology not only goes against what Bay Staters want, it denies law enforcement tools needed to help keep our communities safe.”
Survey data from Pew also shows a majority of Americans (56 percent) trust law enforcement to use facial recognition technology responsibly.
A new poll by Savanta found Massachusetts residents are more supportive of allowing law enforcement to use facial recognition technology responsibly than the general population.
The Savanta survey of Massachusetts residents shows:
● 66 percent of Bay Staters say we should not deny law enforcement from using new technologies, such as facial recognition, to fight and deter crime.
● 64 percent of Bay Staters agreed facial recognition technology has the potential to make communities safer.
● 46 percent of Bay Staters said government should not strictly limit the use of facial recognition technology if it comes at the expense of the public’s safety.
Szabo added, “The survey results confirm that despite calls by some for a moratorium in Massachusetts, people across the state value this technology to keep their communities safe and help law enforcement do their jobs more effectively.”
Full survey data can be found here. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NetChoice is a trade association fighting to protect free speech and free enterprise online.
Today, NetChoice criticized a new bill introduced by Rep. Case (D-HI) that would upend the American short-term rental market by removing Section 230 protections for platforms where owners list their properties.
“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,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. [see direct quotes from hotel chain executives below]
“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.”
“It’s laughable to hold the Washington Post liable for bad acts associated with rentals that appear in classified ads — but that is what this bill does. This bill is so broad it allows cities to ban home rental ads on craigslist and on any website showing classified ads.”
Hotel chain executives have said on record that laws curtailing STRs would allow them to raise prices:
- LaSalle Hotel Properties’ CEO Mark Barnello told his investors that a law curtailing short-term rental services would allow hotels to boost their prices by eliminating competition. Passage of a law liming short-term rental services “should be a big boost in the arm for the business, certainly in terms of the pricing.”
- On an earnings call last year, Jon Bortz, Chief Executive of Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, which owns Embassy Suites, Doubletree and other hotels, said that Airbnb has put a dent on the company’s “ability to price at what maybe the customer would describe as sort of gouging rates.”
Today, NetChoice decried the announcement of antitrust investigations by several state Attorneys General against Facebook and Google.
“Google and Facebook face huge competition from dozens of market players and even each other,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President & General Counsel for NetChoice. “Neither Facebook nor Google use their market position to harm consumers — the standard by which antitrust accusations are judged.”
“State AGs should focus on markets with greater prevalence of consumer harm. 95% of Americans say antitrust enforcement should be most focused on industries other than tech, likely because such evidence of consumer harm is scant.”
“State AGs should chase clear cut cases of consumer harm, not headlines about attacks on popular brands.”
Today, NetChoice raised concerns about the FTC’s announcement that they plan to fine YouTube for alleged COPPA violations.
“Congress created COPPA with clear guardrails — today the FTC broke through them,” said Carl Szabo, General Counsel of NetChoice. “This action puts all general audience sites on unsure footing. Is Angry Birds now subject to COPPA? What about CandyCrush or Marvel comics?”
“The FTC has transformed COPPA from objective principles to subjective punishment for virtually any website – whether child-directed or not.”
In its decision, the FTC greatly expanded the existing subjective COPPA standard to general audience websites even when users sign a contract saying they are over 13.
“This decree will slash the advertising revenue that supports video creators producing high-quality child-friendly content. This means far fewer ad dollars to support videos that my teenager watches to learn about nutrition, sports instruction, and science projects,” said NetChoice President Steve DelBianco.
Today, NetChoice commended U.S. Senators Klobuchar and Blumenthal’s request that the Department of Justice investigate Ticketmaster-Livenation anti-competitive actions, whether it has violated the Sherman Act, and if it should be broken up.
“The Department of Justice and state Attorneys Generals should address real instances of consumer harm from monopolies like Ticketmaster-Livenation instead of wasting resources on tech industry witch-hunts.” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice.
“DoJ should focus on actual instances of consumer harm instead of targeting competitive businesses that a politician doesn’t like. Ticketmaster-Livenation has abused its dominant market position to raise ticket prices and “convenience fees,” and is therefore a far greater threat of consumer harm than competitive markets like social media and online platforms.”
The lack of competition has allowed Ticketmaster to continue increasing its “convenience fees,” even as technology should be driving those costs down.”
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, several state Attorneys General from across the country are launching an antitrust investigation into technology businesses including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
“These cases brought by state AGs are weak as these platforms have neither market dominance nor engage in anti-competitive behavior,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice.
“It’s clear that tech markets are highly competitive. Within 18 months of launching, Tik Tok achieved over a billion global downloads, Snapchat maintains a strong standing, Spotify is double the size of Apple music, and Walmart remains the largest seller in the world.”
“State AGs should focus on industries where consumer harm actually exists. NetChoice polling shows that only 5% of consumers think that antitrust enforcement should be most focused on online platforms.“
“This attack on online platforms by Republican AGs should concern conservatives who expect the GOP to be the party of small government – instead, these AGs are listening to the siren song of populism in their desire to regulate businesses they don’t like.”
Today, NetChoice criticized efforts by Rep. Case (D-HI) to pass legislation that would upend the American short-term rental market by removing Section 230 protections.
“Nobody would say that a newspaper is liable for problems that occur with a rental that appeared in the paper’s classified ads, but that is just what Case’s bill would do to short-term rental platforms. This approach creates a moral hazard by shifting legal responsibility from the homeowner to the platform that lists it for rental.” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice.
“Without Section 230 it will be harder for homeowners to earn extra income through short-term rental of their home, which today is helping them cover expenses and mortgage payments.”
“Weakening Section 230 will damage Americans’ ability to communicate online. The beneficiaries of this bill are big hotel chains who want to raise room rates without worrying that guests would consider short-term rentals as an alternative.”
Today, NetChoice raised concerns with former Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced plans to hold internet companies accountable for failing to stop hate speech and domestic terrorism threats online.
“By prescribing how platforms moderate speech, Beto’s proposal would actually make it harder to remove hateful and extremist content.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel of NetChoice.
“Since 8chan doesn’t moderate content at all, 8chan doesn’t rely on Section 230 to avoid liability for user content. 8chan already gets the same ‘conduit’ liability limits as newsstands and cable providers.”
“Section 230 is the legal tool that empowers platforms to take down hate speech, and has allowed Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to remove almost 12 million accounts for hate speech violations.”
Today, CNN obtained a copy of a summary of a proposed Executive Order by The White House to grant the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission investigation and oversight powers regarding moderation of content by online platforms.
“In a week where many in Washington pressured social media sites to more closely moderate their platforms, we are seeing efforts from the White House to make content moderation harder.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel for NetChoice.
“If President Trump is concerned about mistreatment of conservatives by social media platforms the White House should continue a productive dialogue with the tech industry — not empower government agencies to regulate online speech.”
“Diminishing platforms’ ability to remove offensive content empowers the spread of extremist political speech.”
Facebook comments, Instagram posts, and reviews on Yelp are a valuable part of American business and daily lives
WASHINGTON – NetChoice today announced new polling on user-created content and responsibility for illegal activity online. The poll’s findings show that Americans overwhelmingly (70 percent) value their independent ability to post or view user-created content online.
The poll, conducted by RealClear Opinion Research, revealed that 62 percent of Americans say users who act illegally or post illegal content online are the ones who should be held responsible. Just 26 percent think the online platform should be held liable.
“Tech platforms powered by Section 230 continuously protect consumers from harmful and illegal activity while empowering free speech online. The results from this polling showcase that maintaining Section 230 is a priority for the American people,” says Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice.
“Section 230 enables online platforms to connect workers with potential employees, consumers to read reviews and comments to help them make decisions, and families to stay connected. It is understandable that the American public would continue to support Section 230 and not want to hold platforms liable for the content other people are posting.”
Additional poll findings include:
- Americans overwhelmingly (70%) say their ability to post of view user-created content online is valuable to their personal and professional lives.
- 62% of Americans say users who act illegally or post illegal content online are the ones who should be held liable.
- Of those polled, 73% say users, not platforms, should be held responsible for posts made in the comments section of a webpage.
- Only 1 in 5 polled say they trust the government keep online business practices ethical and fair, whereas a majority most trust consumers or businesses.
Each tech and social platform that hosts user-generated content has community standards in which customers and organizations need to abide to be part of the conversation.
DelBianco added, “These poll results confirm that despite calls for changes to Section 230 by some, Americans value their ability to post content online. It’s vital to keep Section 230 in place, because it not only empowers small businesses nationwide, it also connects Americans with their friends, family, and elected officials.”
While online platforms work to improve the user experience and ensure safe environments for all users through content moderation and removal of offensive content, Americans continue to value their ability to post and view user-created content online.
The poll data can be found here. For more information, please email email@example.com.
NetChoice is a trade association that works to protect free expression and free enterprise online.
Today, NetChoice raised concerns with new legislation introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act.
The bill would reduce the usefulness of social media platforms by banning features like autoplay and automatic scrolling. Ironically, a visitor to Sen. Hawley’s own website will see an autoplay video.
“This bill would reduce the power of consumers to make decisions for themselves and give that power to the government,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “It’s our role to decide what online services and tools we use, not the government’s.”
The bill would also grant the FTC and HHS power to ban social media practices.
“The goal of this bill is to make being online a less enjoyable experience — which polling reveals as something the American people oppose.”
“This bill gives the federal government the power to shut down sites and services it doesn’t like, with little-to-no recourse,” continued Szabo. “Consumers have an abundance of tools that let them control their online experiences. Sen. Hawley’s legislation would expand governmental control over the internet.”
Today, NetChoice commended President Trump and the White House for addressing discriminatory tax proposals coming from Europe.
“France’s Digital Service Tax (DST) is a clear and targeted attempt by Macron to unfairly line French pockets with revenue generated by American innovations,” said Carl Szabo, VP and General Counsel at NetChoice. “President Trump has correctly recognized that France’s Digital Service Tax treats American businesses operating in Europe unfairly.”
“France’s DST ignores advertising by newspapers and television by only taxing large online businesses, the vast majority of which are housed in the United States. DST’s discrimination is obviously intentional and patently unfair,” continued Szabo. “We commend President Trump for his initiative in protecting America’s businesses and combat this unfair tax on American innovation by a foreign power.”
Today, Reps. Gosar (R-AZ), Meadows (R-NC), and King (R-IA) introduced the Stop Censorship Act. The bill would make platforms liable for all content if they remove “legal but otherwise objectionable” content, effectively banning platforms from removing extreme political content and misinformation.
“This bill effectively forces platforms to host harmful content like misinformation, radicalization, deep fakes, and racism.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel of NetChoice.
“Even though the bill claims to allow moderation of adult content, spam, and bots, without text it’s likely these exemptions won’t allow for necessary content moderation that keeps consumers safe online.”
“The bill would prevent platforms from removing extreme content including from groups that support white supremacism and antisemitism.”
“This bill won’t help conservatives but would undermine conservative values by giving government greater control over online speech.”
Today, NetChoice Raised Concerns with a Wide-Reaching Department of Justice Investigation into the Tech Industry
“The DOJ must resist the siren song of populism and only investigate actual evidence of consumer harm,” said Carl Szabo, NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel.
“While anti-tech advocates argue that anything big is bad, for America’s small businesses, often the bigger the platform the better.”
“If the DOJ sticks to the facts, it will see that Americans have more choices and more information than ever. Thanks to innovative online services, consumers have access to an abundance of products, businesses, and information.”
“These businesses cannot be considered monopolies when they compete against one another. Competition in tech is fierce.”
Today, NetChoice voiced support for the FTC and Facebook’s settlement, for which Facebook will be fined $5 billion. This breaks the record for privacy-related fines and is about 100 times larger than last year’s EU’s fine for Google.
“The FTC’s Facebook fine is the largest ever, by a huge margin,” said Carl Szabo, General Counsel at NetChoice. “Yet we are already hearing anti-tech critics claim that the fine is not enough. “
“The FTC’s Facebook fine is unprecedented and will undoubtedly motivate better privacy practices by all businesses. The FTC commissioners should enjoy their weekend, #ThatsGonnaLeaveAMark”
Today, 14 Free Market and Conservative groups sent a letter to House and Senate leadership asking them to defend Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act.
The letter illustrates the importance of Section 230 to the American economy and free speech online. Sent the day before President Trump’s Social Media Summit, the letter is key reading for conservatives discussing concerns about social media platforms.
Below are quotes from NetChoice and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance about the importance of the letter and Section 230:
David Williams, President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance: “Countless conservative voices benefit from the liability protections guaranteed by Section 230, and oppose any attempts to end this vital provision. The internet flourishes when social media platforms allow for discourse and debate without fear of a tidal wave of liability. Ending Section 230 would shutter this marketplace of ideas at tremendous cost.”
Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice: “Online platforms power the American economy and conservative speech online, and it’s clear that many conservative and free market groups support maintaining Section 230. It’s bad policy and bad politics for Republicans to attack Section 230.”