Statement on the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act

The following statement is attributed to Evan Engstrom, Executive Director of Engine, regarding this morning’s introduction of the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act:

In an effort to address a non-existent problem, the new Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) would dismantle the sensible regulatory regime that is responsible for the development of the Internet.

The bill would make Internet platforms liable for any illegal content on their sites unless they can prove to the FTC that they are “politically neutral”—a meaninglessly vague standard that will likely force websites to host hate speech and other objectionable content. While the proposal purports to apply to only large platforms, its arbitrary thresholds will cover many medium-sized platforms, chilling startup growth.

Current law recognizes the difficulty of moderating problematic content online, allowing platforms to host user content without the fear of being held legally responsible for what their users say. Critically, the law also gives platforms the discretion to remove legal but objectionable content. These provisions protect all kinds of voices online and are especially important to startups, which wouldn’t have the resources to survive excessive litigation over content posted by users.

Hawley’s bill reflects a total lack of understanding of how Internet platforms work. Constraining websites’ ability to remove objectionable content will result in the proliferation of hate speech, misinformation, terrorist content, and other content that no responsible Internet platform wants on their site.

To protect a diversity of speech online—and a diversity of platforms to host that speech—Congress should defend the current legal framework from these kinds of attacks over perceived political bias.