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Sen. Lee’s PROMISE Act would require tech companies to operate without ‘political bias’

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, nominee to be Attorney General, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON– Utah Sen. Mike Lee, along with two other GOP senators, introduced legislation Wednesday seeking to “hold Big Tech companies accountable” by requiring platforms to publicly disclose moderation policies to users. Under the proposal, the senators hope to ensure tech companies operate without political bias. 

Goal of the PROMISE Act 

The legislation, entitled the Promoting Responsibility Over Moderation In the Social Media Environment (PROMISE) Act, would require an online platform to provide access to its moderation policies so users can determine whether they agree with its rules. This includes explanations of the platform’s standards in regards to which posts may be flagged or taken down. 

“The billionaires who own our nation’s Big Tech companies have every right to be partisan political actors,” Lee said in a statement. “They do not have the right to tell consumers that they will provide unbiased platforms, and then use those same platforms to discriminate against Americans with opposing religious, philosophical, or political viewpoints.”

The moderation policies must be “in plain, easy to understand language” and explain the “information regarding the business practices of a covered entity with respect to the standards, processes, and policies of the covered entity on moderating information provided by a user or other information content provider.”

Breaking up big tech 

The legislation comes after months of contention among government officials as social media platforms sought to curb the spread of misinformation in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election. 

As part of its efforts to halt the spread of false posts, Twitter implemented temporary guidelines in October that labeled certain tweets as ‘misleading,’ ‘disputed’ or ‘false.’ This led to pushback from some lawmakers, who argued the watchdog role was only utilized against Republicans. 

“Twitter has labeled, filtered, or tagged as ‘disputed’ countless tweets from conservative or Republican figures, while taking no action against their high-profile progressive or Democratic counterparts for similarly contentious claims,” Lee wrote in his PROMISE Act Guide. 

Lee also pointed to instances when Twitter suspended certain accounts — like former Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and House GOP Judiciary Committee — for sharing the New York Post article containing unsubstantiated claims of Hunter Biden working with Ukrainian and Chinese firms. 

Under his proposal, tech companies would need to notify users they’ve violated the platforms’ policies — while justifying why the post was censored or taken down. The legislation would go even further by prohibiting companies from utilizing “deceptive” statements that are misleading or are likely to interfere with “reasonable” actions from users.

Violations of the PROMISE Act would result in consequences enacted by the Federal Trade Commission.