The bill introduction is largely symbolic, as Greene — a fringe Republican who previously supported QAnon conspiracy theories — has been stripped of her committee assignments. It would likewise face long odds in the Senate, even if Republicans retake the majority after November’s election. Still, the measure shows a growing appetite on the right to regulate social media platforms to their liking.
Republican lawmakers have long insisted that Sec. 230, which gives social media platforms legal immunity from the user content they host, enables the platforms to “censor” conservatives. It's actually the First Amendment that gives companies extensive leeway to moderate views on their services as they see fit, but Republicans have repeatedly invoked Sec. 230 to score political points. In the lead up to midterms, many GOP office-holders and candidates have promised to reform the provision if, as expected, they retake power.
Other right-wing political figures, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, have also endorsed the approach of treating social media as a utility that can't turn customers away. Even with exceptions for illegal speech, though, abolishing Sec. 230 would put legal porn, spam and abuse on equal footing with more pedestrian posts. Greene’s measure would prohibit giving “any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, political or religious group or affiliation, or locality” and allow lawsuits for violations. It would also make some exceptions for obscene, “excessively violent” or harassing posts — much of which Sec. 230 also explicitly helps platforms combat.
“This bill isn't original, isn't constitutional,and only serves as a MAGA talking point,” Adam Kovacevich, the head of the Chamber of Progress, told Protocol. (Kovacevich’s organization takes funding from Meta and Twitter.)
Greene’s measure comes as conservatives are cheering Elon Musk’s expected takeover of Twitter in the name of "free speech," which would likely mean more conservative content. Greene argues her measure would “protect him,” although current law would almost certainly already enable his designs, at least in the U.S.
Even though Greene represents the fringe of the right, her grievances against social media firms are widely shared by the broader Republican base. For instance, Greene took issue with Meta’s 2020 decision to remove sharing functionality for the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden's laptop. Many outlets tiptoed around the story at the time, airing concerns it was an example of widely expected electoral “misinformation,” but it has since been shown as largely true. Jack Dorsey, who was CEO of Twitter when the company blocked the story, later called the decision a “total mistake.”
For their part, Democrats have said Sec. 230 gives social media companies too little incentive to take down the worst content, meaning they’ve been unable to come together with Republicans to reform the provision despite bipartisan desire for change.