Josh Hawley readying broadside against big tech’s ad business, legal shield

William Arsn

Lawmakers of both parties have separately suggested amending the law in an effort to address concerns about how the big tech companies moderate content online.

Hawley, a prominent Trump ally in Congress and a former Missouri attorney general, has been discussing the proposal with administration officials, a bipartisan cast of Senate colleagues, and outside groups, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks. Hawley is expected to introduce the legislation in the coming weeks.

His focus on behavioral advertising reflects concern that the tech giants have used their vast reams of data on people’s online activity to power their businesses and crowd out competitors, the person said. The lawmaker has been an outspoken critic of the tech giants, accusing them of stifling competition, invading consumers’ privacy and suppressing Republican voices online.

There’s no evidence of a systemic anti-conservative bias on social media. But the allegations have become a rallying cry for Trump, Hawley and their GOP allies.

Section 230, widely credited with helping the online industry to flourish economically, broadly shields digital services from lawsuits for hosting and taking down user content.

Trump and his allies attacked the legal shield after Twitter slapped fact-checking and warning labels on some of tweets. Facebook declined to act against identical posts on its platforms, drawing praise from Republicans and rebukes from Democrats who criticized the platform’s hands-off approach on Trump.

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