The Center for Democracy & Technology joined a coalition letter – alongside TechFreedom, Free Press Action, the LGBT Technology Partnership, & others – calling for an amendment to the Open App Markets Act.
As the letter states, a “specific provision in S.2710 will, in its current form, be misused to pressure mainstream platforms to carry extremist content, hate speech and misinformation.” A portion of the letter is pasted below.
Re: Committee Markup of S.2710, the Open App Markets Act (February 3, 2022)
A specific provision in S.2710 will, in its current form, be misused to pressure mainstream platforms to carry extremist content, hate speech and misinformation. As Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) noted ahead of the Judiciary Committee’s markup of a package of related tech antitrust bills last June: “[e]xtremist outlets and disinformation sites could sue platforms for blocking them.” For example, she warned, “Infowars may sue Apple for being kicked out of the app store, while other conservative political outlets are left up”—and the “[s]ame is possible for Parler, Gab, and 4Chan.” When such apps are removed from app stores, downranked, or merely subject to warnings or filters, app developers will frame such content moderation as “unreasonable preferencing.” They, Republican state attorney generals, and the next Republican administration will sue, treating this bill as what they have long sought: a “Parler Bill of Rights.”
Sen. Ted Cruz did not conceal this agenda at the recent markup of S.2992. The bill would, he noted, “make some positive improvement on the problem of censorship” (i.e., content moderation) because “it would provide protections to content providers, to businesses that are discriminated against because of the content of what they produce.” In some respects, S.2710 could be even more prone to abuse than S.2992 because the former’s catch-all anti-discrimination provision, while limited to app stores, is even more elastic.
Moving the key provisions of § 3(e)(2)(A) into § 3(e)(1) would protect the stated purpose of this provision — prohibiting “self-preferencing in search” as an economic weapon through a broad, flexible standard — while doing much to foreclose creative pleading intended to retaliate against editorial content moderation.
Thank you for your attention to our concerns. We would be happy to assist your Committee in working to revise Section 3(e) so that this provision does not assist those attacking our democracy.