Press Statements

Rep. Devin Nunes’s Suit against Twitter Won’t work

Today, NetChoice identified legal infirmities in Rep. Devin Nunes’s lawsuit against Twitter for comments posted on the platform.

“This lawsuit underscores the importance of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which empowers platforms to host content and discussions of our elected officials — whether our elected officials like it or not,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice.

“Twitter has been an amazing forum for discussing – and yes, criticizing – our public officials, hopefully this lawsuit doesn’t undermine that.” continued Szabo.  “The ability to criticize our public officials is core to our American principles.”

“This suit’s survival is unlikely as the ability to criticize and mock our public officials is well settled court doctrine.”

NetChoice Concerned by Ninth Circuit Ruling on Section 230

Today, NetChoice voiced concerns about today’s Ninth Circuit Ruling that could undermine Section 230 and threaten the legal structure that empowers entrepreneurs online.

“The Ninth Circuit’s ruling is wrong and violates the reasoning behind Section 230. This decision risks closing-off avenues of free speech and free enterprise for all Americans,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “Section 230 empowers individuals and businesses all over the country through the use of online platforms like HomeAway and Airbnb.”

“This ruling runs contrary to multiple court decisions that have upheld Section 230 and enabled unprecedented innovation.”

NetChoice filed a joint “friend of the court” brief with Hon. Chris Cos on this case last year.

Multiple Sources – Media Reaction to Warren’s Medium Piece “Here’s How We Can Break Up Big Tech”

“Sen. Warren is wrong in her assertion that tech companies lack competition,” said Carl Szabo, vice president of the trade group NetChoice that lists both Facebook and Google as members. “Never before have consumers had access to more goods, services, and opportunities online.”

Reported in:

44 smaller outlets also quoted NetChoice.

NetChoice Challenges Warren’s Hipster Antitrust Assertions

Today, NetChoice challenged US Senator Warren’s new Medium post supporting the breaking-up of successful American tech businesses like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

“Sen. Warren is wrong in her assertion that tech markets lack competition. Never before have consumers and workers had more access to goods, services, and opportunities online,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel for NetChoice.

“Breaking up tech companies would hurt – not help – America’s middle class,” continued Szabo.

“Sen. Warren’s proposal would increase prices for consumers, make search and maps less useful, and raise costs to small businesses that advertise online. This proposal is bad for all Americans.”

Startups have never been more prevalent.  The Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship shows that entrepreneurship is at its highest levels since 2008. Main street growth and startup activity are likewise up.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found self-employment is up since 2014 and is projected to grow at 7.9% — faster than the projected rate for all workers.

NetChoice challenges Klobuchar’s Attempts to Politicize Antitrust

Today, NetChoice challenged US Senator Klobuchar’s comments on weaponizing antitrust during today’s Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights – “Does America Have a Monopoly Problem?: Examining Concentration and Competition in the US Economy

“It’s concerning to hear a US Senator weaponizing antitrust for campaign slogans while in the same breath berating the President over his approach to antitrust,” said Carl Szabo, NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel.

“Contrary to the claims of some presidential candidates, consumers have never had more choice when it comes to online services.”

NetChoice Comments in Advance of House and Senate Privacy Hearings

Below is NetChoice’s statement in advance of tomorrow’s privacy hearing in the House, and Wednesday’s privacy hearing in the Senate. Here are NetChoice’s comments for the record for the House Hearing on consumer privacy.

“We are seeing a fracturing of the internet driven by states introducing disparate privacy bills.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President of NetChoice. “The time has come for establishment of a nationwide standard for privacy online.”

“Americans should ask for a better privacy approach than what Europe and California concocted. Americans deserve a privacy law that doesn’t remove services and stymie innovation.” continued Szabo. “Federal privacy legislation should allow for industry safe-harbors similar to those in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.”

NetChoice Raises Concerns with Calls to Tear Apart Previously Approved Mergers

Today, NetChoice raised concerns about House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee suggestions of re-reviewing merger approvals.

“Tearing apart previously approved mergers threatens America’s startups and empowers America’s competitors.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel for NetChoice.  

“We must not take a rear-view mirror approach to merger reviews.” continued Szabo.  It’s surprising to hear Rep. Cicilline saying the Obama FTC failed to do an adequate review of mergers.”  

For more information read NetChoice’s oped: An antitrust Game of Thrones – The fantasy fight against Google and Facebook

NetChoice Raises Concerns with Calls for Conservative Taskforce to Regulate Tech

Today, NetChoice raised concerns about Senate Commerce Committee calls for a taskforce to investigate allegations of tech bias against conservatives.

“It is a myth that social media platforms are unregulated. Online platforms are subject to dozens of laws from across the country.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel for NetChoice.

“Jumping to big government solutions such as a task force to address concerns is counter to conservative principles.” continued Szabo.  “This taskforce sets a dangerous precedent that government should intervene in spaces that enable free speech online. Politicians regardless of political affiliation should reject policies that put our online freedoms at risk.”

NetChoice Commends Facebook for Securing User Data

Today, NetChoice commended Facebook for prioritizing the security of its users by restricting what user data third party apps can access.

“After Cambridge Analytica, Facebook is right to prevent third party apps from abusing their access to Facebook user data,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. “Even if a good actor wishes to access Facebook user data, allowing that risks bad actors gaining access too.”

“Facebook is balancing important priorities that traditional media outlets like the Guardian should appreciate rather than tying Facebook up in a Catch-22.”

NetChoice Applauds the US Supreme Court’s denial of Certiorari in Online Platform Liability Case

Washington, D.C. – Today, NetChoice applauded the US Supreme Court’s denial of Certiorari in Hassell v. Yelp, Inc, No. 18-506. This denial retains a California State Supreme Court ruling that Section 230 protections prevent Yelp from being held legally liable for negative reviews posted on their site.

“This case shows the importance of Section 230. Without Section 230 Yelp would be held responsible for negative reviews posted on their site — a legal burden that could shut them down,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “Americans increasingly rely on online services like Yelp in their daily lives, services which rely on Section 230 to function.”

NetChoice Concerned By Push for Government Intervention in Barr Confirmation Hearing

Washington, D.C. – Today, NetChoice raised concerns with some Senators’ politically motivated demands to punish the tech industry during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing of William Barr.

“Weaponizing antitrust in order to attack online platforms sets a dangerous precedent,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “Conservatives should turn to market-based solutions to solve perceived problems, not seek more intervention from big government.”

“Anyone who’s seen the movie “Vice” knows conservatives like Vice President Dick Cheney fought against the so-called fairness doctrine for broadcast TV.  Only after eliminating “equal time” mandates did we see the rise of conservative voices like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh,” continued Szabo.

“An internet unhindered by heavy-handed government regulation continues to help conservative voices be heard online. Had the proposals we heard in today’s confirmation hearing been implemented 10 years ago, modern conservative voices like Ben Shapiro and Candace Owens would likely be no more than whispers.”

NetChoice Commends Injunction of NYC’s Anti-Homesharing Ordinance

Today, NetChoice commended the US Southern District Court of New York’s preliminary injunction of NYC’s anti-homesharing ordinance requiring short-term rental platforms, like Airbnb and HomeAway, to hand over huge amounts of sensitive customer data.

“New York City’s fight against their own residents has lead them to defy the constitution and violate the rights of New Yorkers,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “New York’s Southern District Court should protect the rights of NYC homeowners. The city’s anti-homesharing laws are dysfunctional and to enforce them New York City is trampling residents’ right to privacy.”

Here are some quotes from the Southern District Court’s decision:

  1. “[The ordinance] would invite such productions so as to permit regulators to troll these records for potential violations of law, even as to customers as to which there had been no basis theretofore to suspect any violation of law.” P.40
  2. “Existing Fourth Amendment law does not afford a charter for such a wholesale regulatory appropriation of a company’s user database.” P.40
  3. “A home-sharing platform has at least two very good reasons to keep host and guest information private, whether as to these users’ identities, contact information, usage patterns, and payment practices. One is competitive: Keeping such data confidential keeps such information from rivals (whether competing platforms or hotels) who might exploit it. The other involves customer relations: Keeping such data private assuredly promotes better relations with, and retention of, a platform’s users.” P.22

Link to opinion and order: netchoice.org/nycpreliminjunction

NetChoice Commends Moderation Efforts by Tech Platforms

Today, NetChoice commended efforts by tech platforms to curb manipulation by foreign actors to influence American elections. The statement was made in response to President Trump’s comments made earlier today criticizing online platforms for their moderation efforts.

“Platforms are taking steps to curb manipulation – proactively addressing the issues raised by the recently released Senate Report on Disinformation Campaigns. This should be celebrated, not condemned,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President at NetChoice. “Condemning platforms for addressing foreign interference in our elections sends the wrong message.”

USMCA Interactive Computer Service Provisions Put America’s Digital Economy First

Washington, D.C. – Today, NetChoice commended the Trump Administration for including Article 19.17 in the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA). The USMCA contains language from the Communications Decency Act that allows online platforms to engage in good faith content moderation efforts without being subjected to legal liability.

“When it comes to our digital economy, USMCA puts America first,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. “Online platform protections make the United States a world leader in tech and innovation, Canada and Mexico will surely benefit from emulating these platform protections.”

Legislation Will Imperil Short-Term Renters from Anacostia to Brookland

Washington DC, November 12, 2018 – The future of short-term rentals (STRs) throughout the nation’s capital is being put at risk by DC Council Bill – B22-0092 which would introduce a licensing system that would eliminate nearly all current short-term rentals like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO.

The bill would:

  • impose zoning requirements that effectively eliminate nearly all short-term rentals;
  • require short-term rental platforms to share private information about hosts with the city government;
  • cost the city over $104 million in lost taxes and implementation costs;
  • eliminate short-term rental competition allowing big-hotels to gouge visitors to the nation’s capital.

“Big hotels are the only real winners of DC’s anti-home sharing bill.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President at NetChoice. “The city’s latest anti-tech action threatens resident’s privacy and financial security.”

“I can think of a better way for the city to spend $100 million.”

“DC is going after short-term rentals to the detriment of home owners and at a cost of $104 million,” continued Szabo. “The City Council’s proposed rules would burden residents who use STR platforms to help make ends meet.”

A copy of coalition opposition letter can be found at: https://netchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/Association-Joint-DC-Council-Letter-150.pdf

About NetChoice

NetChoice is a trade association of eCommerce and online businesses that share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

NetChoice Calls For Federal Privacy Legislation to Stop Fracturing of the Internet

Washington, D.C. – Today, NetChoice filed comments with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (“NTIA”) request for comments on Request for Comments on Developing the Administration’s Approach to Consumer Privacy.

“We are seeing a fracturing of the internet driven by states introducing disparate privacy bills.” said Carl Szabo, Vice President of NetChoice. “The time has come for establishment of a nationwide standard for privacy online.”

“Americans should ask for a better privacy approach than what Europe and California concocted. Americans deserve a privacy law that doesn’t remove services and stymie innovation.” continued Szabo. “Federal privacy legislation should allow for industry safe-harbors similar to those in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.”

Read Comments to NTIA

NetChoice Warns Lawmakers: Americans Reject Government in Tech

Washington, D.C. – Today, NetChoice warned President Trump that heavy-handed regulations on tech platforms is out-of-step with his electorate.

“When President Trump says he would regulate online platforms for alleged anti-conservative bias, he really means he would suppress free expression,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. “Government suppression of negative news and views about the President would blatantly violate the constitution.”

“Other policy proposals being thrown out by beltway pundits and think tanks are even more unpopular,” continued DelBianco. “Whether it’s competition and antitrust, advertising or parental controls, Americans overwhelmingly oppose government intervention in tech. 90% of Americans don’t think the government should block tech company acquisitions and 95% think the government should not focus on trying to break them up.”

NetChoice’s comments follow statements made by President Trump during a press briefing on the results of yesterday’s Midterm Election.

Learn more about NetChoice’s recent poll at netchoice.org/techlashpoll.

“Palm Beach County Short-Term Rental Ordinance is Unconstitutional and Undermines Homeowners’ Personal Privacy”, NetChoice Says

October 15, 2018 – Efforts by Palm Beach County to regulate short-term rentals (STRs) infringes on the constitutional rights of homeowners, invades the privacy of county residents and undermines a vital economic engine to the local economy, NetChoice filed in legal testimony today.

Proposed Ordinance 95-30 would require online STR platforms, like Homeaway, Airbnb and VRBO, to disclose user data to the government or face liability requirements.

NetChoice believes the ordinance:

  • Violates the U.S. constitution.
  • Breaks federal Internet law.
  • Prevents local residents from earning extra income and would have wide-ranging negative impacts on the local economy.
  • Threatens the privacy of local residents.

“Palm Beach County is flaunting years of federal protections that have benefitted consumers and enabled the Internet to become a vital economic engine for local, state and national economies,” said Carl Szabo, VP and General Counsel for NetChoice. “The existence of short-term rentals in Palm Beach benefits local residents as much as it does tourists. STRs allow local homeowners to pay their mortgages and afford the added burdens of local taxes and hurricane insurance. Visitors save money by staying in STRs enabling them to have extra cash to spend at local restaurants and stores.”

NetChoice’s testimony detailed how Palm Beach’s proposed ordinance breaks the 4th amendment of the U.S. constitution, as it requires unreasonable search and seizure of personal information.  Further, the proposed ordinance also violates the Communications Decency Act,  which protects online platforms from being legally responsible for content posted by their users. The law’s existence has enabled consumers and businesses to conduct billions of dollars of commerce on the internet.

New DOT Guidelines Will Put Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Into Gear, Says NetChoice

NetChoice, which counts Waymo and Lyft as members, applauded new guidelines from the Department of Transportation (DOT) that foster innovation while still prioritizing safety.

“DOT’s new guidelines put self-driving cars into gear and onto the roads.” said Carl Szabo, VP and General Counsel at NetChoice.

“DOT guidelines will drive the autonomous vehicle industry to innovate while maintaining public safety,” continued Szabo. “The guidelines are forward looking, taking into account that cars of the future may not have many features of today’s cars, such as steering wheels, gas pedals and mirrors.”

The guidelines also push states and localities to remove barriers to autonomous vehicle testing and to ensure the growth of new technologies and interoperability. The new guidelines also allow car manufacturers to self-define their cars as self-driving rather than having to comply with a specific description. These are just two of many ways the DOT will ensure effective regulations that do not burden innovators.

“Autonomous vehicles are the future of road transportation, and the DOT has provided guidelines that will allow America to lead in the adoption of this revolutionary technology,” continued Szabo.

NYC Short-Term Rental Law Is Unconstitutional, NetChoice States

Forcing Businesses to Turn Over Private and Personal Customer Information Violates the Rights of all New Yorkers

Washington, D.C., October-1, 2018 – Local Law 146, a short-term rental law passed by the New York City (NYC) Council and signed into law by Mayor de Blasio in August violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and needs to be amended, NetChoice says.

NetChoice filed in the court cases of Airbnb vs. NYC and HomeAway vs. NYC. Both Airbnb and Homeway are seeking preliminary injunctions against NYC’s Local Law 146.

Local Law 146 requires short-term rental (STR) platforms to disclose private and personal information of hosts who reserve STRs through them. This law is an attempt by the city government to improve enforcement of strict regulations on STRs.

However, NetChoice believes that the law has three fatal flaws as it:

  • Breaks the 4th Amendment of the Constitution
  • Defies the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act
  • Violates New York State privacy laws

“New York’s fight against their own residents has lead them to defy the constitution and violate the rights of New Yorkers,” continued Szabo. “New York’s Southern District Court should protect the rights of NYC homeowners. The city’s anti-home sharing laws are dysfunctional and to enforce them New York is trampling residents’ right to privacy.”