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Civil Liberties & Civil Rights Organizations Warn Senate Judiciary Committee of Voter Suppression Risk from “Online Content Policy Modernization Act”

30 September 2020

Today, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) led a coalition of civil rights and civil liberties organizations in urging the Senate Judiciary Committee members to reject Senator Graham’s “Online Content Policy Modernization Act.” The bill would dramatically increase the risk of online voter suppression, a serious threat to democracy that disproportionately targets voters of color.

“Just 34 days before the election, Senator Graham’s proposal would discourage social media companies from taking down or fact-checking disinformation. Right now, we need social media companies to be taking more action against election misinformation, not less,” said Alexandra Givens, CDT President & CEO.

The “Online Content Policy Modernization Act,” S. 4632, combines an unrelated bill about copyright claims, the CASE Act, with a proposed amendment to Section 230 that Senators Graham, Wicker, and Blackburn previously introduced to the Senate Commerce Committee. “This Frankenstein bill is getting railroaded through the Senate Judiciary Committee without any discussion of the threat it poses,” said Emma Llansó, Director of CDT’s Free Expression Project.

“This bill would shrink the shield that Section 230 provides for sites to engage in content moderation,” Llansó said. “Sites that remove disinformation, hate speech, or anything else outside of the narrow set of categories outlined in Senator Graham’s bill, would face increased risk of lawsuits that would pressure them into leaving such content online. The bill also exposes sites to litigation risk if they ‘editorialize’ alongside user-generated content–a direct attack on the ability of sites to provide warning labels and fact-checks on disinformation.”

“Like the President’s unconstitutional Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, this bill is yet another partisan gambit aimed at making social media sites moderate content the way the President prefers,” said Givens. “This bill would take away the very tools these services should be using to fight voter suppression and disinformation, and is a surefire way to stop them from fact-checking the President’s posts. The Committee should not be drawn in by this cynical ploy.”