What They Are Saying | Industry Leaders Welcome Wicker’s PRO-SPEECH Act

July 22, 2021

Top leaders and organizations are expressing support for the Promoting Rights and Online Speech Protections to Ensure Every Consumer is Heard (PRO-SPEECH) Act after U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the bill last month. The legislation would establish baseline protections to prohibit Big Tech from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or anti-competitive practices that limit or control consumers’ speech. 

See below for what they are saying:   

Federal Communications Commission (FCC): “While Section 230 reform remains necessary, it is not sufficient standing alone to address Big Tech’s discriminatory conduct,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr. Section 230 reform must be paired with a broader effort to apply antidiscrimination requirements to large Internet platforms. Senator Wicker’s legislation would take this important next step in the ongoing efforts to hold Big Tech accountable.

“I applaud Senator Wicker for his bold leadership and thoughtful legislation. His bill would give Big Tech a simple choice: either stop blocking people from posting and accessing lawful content or declare that you are acting as a publisher and accept the responsibilities that come with that status. In no event, however, should an Internet platform take actions against a user based on racial, sexual, religious, political affiliation, or ethnic grounds, as Senator Wicker’s legislation would prohibit. These are core antidiscrimination obligations that state and federal laws have long applied to a range of businesses.

“Senator Wicker’s bill would also bring much needed transparency to Big Tech’s practices and rein in their anticompetitive conduct. This is an important piece of legislation, and I urge policymakers at the federal and state levels to consider the approach that Senator Wicker has laid out.”

American Principles Project: “Under Senator Wicker's legislation, Big Tech platforms are offered a choice: they can either promote free speech and free expression, and stop discriminating against their users, or they can publicly declare themselves to be publishers and forgo their Section 230 immunity,” said Jon Schweppe, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at American Principles Project. This would codify the common sense argument Big Tech critics have been making for years — if a company like Twitter wants to pick and choose what kinds of opinions are allowed on its website, then it's not in the platform business, it's in the publishing business.

“Importantly, the bill creates a broad protection for speech by incorporating the phrases ‘lawful content’ and ‘lawful internet traffic.’ In other words, anything that could be said legally on a public sidewalk would be protected speech on Big Tech platforms under this statute. The legislation would also protect innovators by not applying these rules to small companies and would simultaneously prevent Big Tech companies from engaging in anti-competitive behavior like what happened to Parler in January. And the bill would require Big Tech companies to be more transparent and hold them more accountable to their own terms of services.

“Sen. Wicker deserves a lot of credit for coming up with such an innovative proposal. Our hope is that it will generate a substantive conversation in the months ahead as Republicans look to pass legislation addressing Big Tech censorship should they take back the House and Senate in 2022.”

Conservative Partnership Institute: (Tweet) “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” said Rachel Bovard, Senior Director of Policy at Conservative Partnership Institute. 

Ethics & Public Policy Center: (Tweet) “@SenatorWicker just introduced a new bill with a novel approach for holding Big Tech accountable. A bold and innovative step forward,” said Clare Morell, Policy Analyst at Big Tech Project.

Federalist Society: (Blog) “The PRO-SPEECH Act is as ‘middle of the road’ as it gets, while addressing some of the hardest issues now confronting tech policy without forcing these companies to change their business models or resorting to a complete rewrite of our antitrust laws. It is a model worthy of further study and deliberation,” said Joel Thayer, Principal at Thayer, PLLC.

Free State Foundation: “I commend the introduction of the legislation as a spur to further consideration of what to do about Big Tech's cancellation power…Senator Wicker’s legislative effort provides a helpful frame,” said Randolph May, President of Free State Foundation 

Newsweek: (Op-ed) “Senator Roger Wicker's PRO-SPEECH Act, takes a novel approach to one of the most pressing threats to our democracy: Big Tech's control of our political discussion.

“Senator Wicker's thoughtful and innovative bill tackles these platforms' unjustified control and censorship head-on.

“The PRO-SPEECH Act offers a strong, creative solution for protecting speech and competition in social media. Wicker has shown there are more strings for legislators to pull to curb Big Tech's censorship,” said Adam Candeub, Professor of Law at Michigan State University/Senior Fellow at the Center for Renewing America and Clare Morell, Policy Analyst at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.