Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Urges Biden to Crack Down on Big Tech

Jan 25, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan sent a letter today to President Joe Biden urging him to crack down on Big Tech abuses that have stifled competition and censored freedom of speech. 

Buchanan said the President should make it a priority of his administration by appointing the right people to head the two federal agencies that oversee the industry.

“The next permanent heads of the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission must be committed to reining in Big Tech and its assault against free speech and free enterprise,” Buchanan said. The Federal Trade Commission has broad authority to investigate and enforce antitrust violations while the Federal Communications Commission is charged with interpreting and enforcing existing law and regulations under the Communications Act of 1934. 

Buchanan said leaders from both parties in Congress have demanded reform, noting that House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, said recently, “there is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation and safeguards our democracy.”

In his letter, Buchanan highlighted Big Tech’s anti-competitive behavior to stifle competition and silence political speech.

“America is a nation founded on free speech, yet the social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have repeatedly silenced conservative viewpoints and engaged in monopolistic behavior to stifle competition,” Buchanan said. “These companies need to be held accountable and our constitutional freedoms protected.”

Buchanan said Big Tech companies should be stripped of legal protections that give them free license to abuse their monopolistic power.

These companies have engaged in anti-competitive actions to shut down Parler, a popular social media site that aims to be a free speech alternative. Apple and Google both banned Parler from their app stores and Amazon removed it from its web hosting services.

Online service providers are protected from being held legally liable for content they host, but do not produce, under Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934. Current law affords these companies certain good Samaritan protection allowing them to restrict access to specific content that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” Tech companies have repeatedly abused these protections, including an exceptionally broad definition of “otherwise objectionable” to restrict legal content from users that they disagree with.

According to a PEW Research study, 72 percent of the public thinks it likely that social media platforms actively censor political views that those companies find objectionable.

In his letter, Buchanan stated, “While social media companies should be empowered to remove illegal and threatening content from their platforms, it is clear that current protections under Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 are too often used to silence content that companies may disagree with.”

Last Congress, Buchanan co-sponsored legislation to restrict the legal liability protections afforded to Big Tech. The Protect Speech Act would require providers to operate in good faith, including refraining from selectively restricting content based on ideological views.

 “Silencing the speech of millions of Americans because they have a different opinion sets and extremely dangerous precedent that goes against our nation’s founding principles,” Buchanan said.

 Read the full text of the letter below:

Dear President Biden,

America is a nation founded on free speech, yet the social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have repeatedly silenced conservative viewpoints and engaged in monopolistic behavior to stifle competition. These companies need to be held accountable and our constitutional freedoms protected. That’s why I am urging you to nominate individuals to head the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that are committed to preserving Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech and countering Big Tech censorship.

Disturbingly, companies like Twitter and Facebook have increasingly and unapologetically censored conservative views while hiding behind strong liability protections. Recent actions by these companies are anti-competitive and promote censorship. The quick and seemingly coordinated actions by Big Tech companies including Amazon, Apple and Google to shut down Parler, a popular social media site that aims to be a free speech alternative, are a chilling example on how these companies have engaged in anti-competitive behavior in order to harm their competitors and silence opposing viewpoints. We cannot let Big Tech choose what companies and ideas succeed or fail. That is why it is essential that any leaders of the FTC and FCC get to work immediately to uphold the principles of free speech that are currently under attack.

While social media companies should be empowered to remove illegal and threatening content from their platforms, it is clear that current protections under Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 are too often used to silence content that companies may disagree with. Last Congress, I supported legislation to severely curtail the legal liability protections afforded to Big Tech. The legislation would require providers to operate in good faith, including refraining from selectively restricting content based on ideological views.

It is imperative that our constitutional freedoms are upheld which is why I implore you to select nominees that will work to achieve these goals. I look forward to your timely response on this critically important matter.

Vern Buchanan