Sen. Klobuchar’s AICOA 3.0 Will Hinder Content Moderation Practices… Or Maybe It Won’t
The latest version of Sen. Klobuchar’s American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA) has many experts concerned about what the bill means for online content moderation, and the sponsors seem to be divided on the answer.
Sponsors of the bill have been inconsistent about their stated purpose of AICOA regarding content moderation:
— Senator Klobuchar, the bill’s lead Senate sponsor, has attested “the bill has nothing to do with content.” This came in response to concerns raised in a letter from the Democratic members.
— Yet the House’s lead sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline claimed “the Act preserves and enhances platforms’ existing defenses against claims related to content moderation.”
These statements from the House and Senate co-sponsors conflict with one another, yet no effort has been made by the bill’s supporters to make clear how the bill protects content moderation practices. In fact, experts have raised many concerns about how the bill would impact content moderation:
1. AICOA “would supercharge harmful content online and make it more difficult [for platforms] to combat,” a group of Democratic senators wrote in a letter calling for the sponsors of AICOA to address the “significant issue.”
2. “Presuming that AICOA is drafted precisely enough to preclude attacks on content moderation ignores multiple, loud warnings that future politically motivated enforcers (and judges) will seize on. This is a risky gamble indeed,” warned a group of prominent legal experts, professors, and advocacy organizations.
3. AICOA “potentially subjects the largest platforms to lawsuits for removing and reducing the reach of hate speech and other dangerous content,” according to Matt Wood, Vice President of Policy and General Counsel at Free Press Action.
4. AICOA “would hand the makers of services and apps that give free rein to hate speech and disinformation a powerful weapon to use in court,” law professors Anupam Chander and Jane Bambauer write in the Washington Post.
5. Under the current draft, AICOA “will lead to more hate speech, more disinformation, and more harassment online,” particularly harming “the most vulnerable in society, including minorities, women, and LGBTQ persons,” 14 internet legal scholars warn in an open letter to Congress.
6. The current protections written into AICOA “could unduly interfere with the platforms’ responsible efforts to curb hate speech, disinformation, or other abusive content,” the Center for Democracy and Technology noted in a letter on their concerns with the bill.
7. With AICOA’s requirement to allow open access to both foreign and domestic businesses, it “would have unintended cybersecurity consequences,” argues Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, in line with countless national security experts.
8. In the bill’s current state, AICOA “may well be interpreted to make tech platforms common carriers, unable to do any content moderation because blocking or downranking terrorists, COVID misinformation, or hate speech would ‘discriminate’ against that content,” writes Stanford Law Professor Mark Lemley.