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Big Tech Version of Net Neutrality Bill Proposed

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Gary Arlen)

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, has introduced the Promoting Rights and Online Speech Protections to Ensure Every Consumer is Heard (PRO-SPEECH) Act.

He said it will provide "baseline protections to prohibit Big Tech from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or anti-competitive practices that limit or control consumers’ speech."

Republicans, including Wicker, have consistently argued that Silicon Valley has a bias against conservative speech that it expresses through blocking and throttling speakers.

Also Read: Wicker Says Congress Should Curb Big Tech

"My bill would put safeguards in place to preserve internet freedom, promote competition, and protect consumers from these blatantly biased practices," said Wicker. “The big social media companies continue to abuse their market power by censoring content, suppressing certain viewpoints, and prioritizing favored political speech,” he added, saying Congress needed to step in to make sure all viewpoints can be heard.

According to Wicker's office, the bill would include a net neutrality provision, preserving the ability of web users to "access lawful content, applications, services, or devices that do not interfere with an internet platform’s functionality or pose a data privacy or data security risk to a user."

It would also:

1. "Prohibit internet platforms from taking any actions against users based on racial, sexual, religious, partisan, or ethnic grounds;

2. "Prohibit large internet platforms from blocking or discriminating against competing internet platforms by declaring such actions presumptively anti-competitive;

3. "Require an internet platform to disclose to the public accurate information regarding the platform management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of service of any app store, cloud computing service, operating system, search engine, or social media network it owns; and

4. "Authorize the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the Act under Section 5 of the FTC Act notwithstanding any other provision of law."

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has called for reform of Big Tech's Sec. 230 immunity from civil liability for their content moderation practices, saying they are censoring conservatives, applauded the bill.

"While Section 230 reform remains necessary, it is not sufficient standing alone to address Big Tech’s discriminatory conduct," he said. "Section 230 reform must be paired with a broader effort to apply anti-discrimination requirements to large internet platforms." 

Senator Wicker’s legislation would take this important next step in the ongoing efforts to hold Big Tech accountable.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.