Lesko; House Republican Leadership Introduce Legislation to Hold Big Tech Accountable for Political Bias

Washington, June 21, 2022 | Andrea Hitt (202-251-6371)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (AZ-08) introduced the Political Bias in Algorithm Sorting Emails Act (Political BIAS Emails Act) to hold Big Tech accountable for using biased algorithms that filter political emails and to increase transparency on the censoring practices used by Big Tech companies. Lesko was joined by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Whip Steve Scalise (LA-01), Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Chief Deputy Whip Drew Ferguson (GA-03), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (MN-06), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), and Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Ranking Member Gus Bilirakis (FL-12). Senator John Thune (R-SD) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

“Big Tech companies have decided they are the arbiters of truth,” said Congresswoman Lesko. “Big Tech companies should not be interfering with our free and fair elections and silencing political discourse. I am proud to introduce this legislation to hold Big Tech companies accountable if they attempt to insert themselves in the political process and suppress political content.”

“Today’s Big Tech behemoths were once the gold standard of entrepreneurism and innovation, and offered space for the First Amendment to live freely,” said Leader McCarthy. “But over the years, these platforms abandoned these First Amendment principles and have instead chosen to use their immense power to pick a side in our country’s political discourse.

Researchers from North Carolina State University recently found that nearly 70 percent of emails from candidates registered with the Republican Party were sent to spam email boxes by Google, compared to less than 1 in 10 from Democrat candidates from 2019 to 2020. Given Gmail holds over 50 percent of the email market in the U.S., about 130.9 million Americans are impacted by Google’s attempt to silence Republicans.

With this bill, Republicans are fighting back against Big Tech’s discriminatory infiltration into our political discourse, and will continue to take on Big Tech whenever and wherever they silence political speech.”

“Big Tech companies should never use email-filtering algorithms to censor political speech. Unfortunately, whether on social media or over email, Big Tech CEOs are using their platforms to suppress free speech and control who can and cannot have a voice,” said Whip Scalise. “By deciding which messages reach users and which messages are marked as spam, email providers limit what information makes its way to voters and influence their decision at the ballot box. This is un-American. I commend Congresswoman Lesko for leading the fight against Big Tech’s selective censorship of conservatives and for standing up for the First Amendment.”

“Using algorithms to filter conservative emails as spam is one more way Big Tech is censoring conservative ideas, and I am proud to join my colleagues in addressing this issue by increasing transparency for Big Tech’s actions,” said Chairwoman Stefanik. “Emails should not be subject to politicized filters, because the American people should be able to receive information without Big Tech picking and choosing their political priorities.”

“A level playing field is essential to our system of elections, and many conservatives are frustrated with technology companies consistently putting our candidates and our message at a competitive disadvantage,” said NRCC Chairman Emmer. “The NCSU Study and multiple campaign testimonials shed light on these biases, and I appreciate Congresswoman Lesko’s work to bring fairness and transparency to the way e-mail platforms treat messages from political campaigns.”

“Big Tech should not decide which political emails reach folks’ inboxes, and which are sent to spam,” said Congressman Ferguson. “This egregiously unfair practice of using algorithms to block conservative ideas by deciding which emails get filtered out – without the consumer’s knowledge or consent – is flat out wrong. I’m proud to join Congresswoman Lesko to bring this to an end.”

“It is un-American for these companies to be incorporating any political bias into their algorithms,” said Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers. “This is just the latest example of Big Tech abusing their power to shutdown free speech and censor any viewpoint that does not fit the liberal ideology. This bill, led by my colleague Rep. Lesko, reins in Big Tech’s power to control what we can see and hear. The answer to speech we disagree with should always be more speech.”

“Consumers deserve transparency in understanding how Big Tech is manipulating the information they are able to access,” said Ranking Member Bilirakis. “This bill ensures transparency and cracks down on censorship based on political beliefs.”

This legislation prohibits email services from using filtering algorithms on emails from federal political campaigns or campaign committees unless an email user took an action to apply a label, such as spam, for the email. This legislation also requires operators of email services to produce quarterly transparency reports and requires email services to disclose information to the individual campaigns on the percentage of emails flagged as spam, the total number of emails that reached an email user’s primary inbox, and a summary as to why emails from the individual campaign did not reach a user’s primary inbox.

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