Tech platform publishing immunity should be re-evaluated, Chopra says

28 March 2019 00:00

Antitrust regulators need to reconsider which tech companies are immune from any liability related to the content they publish, US Federal Trade Commission member Rohit Chopra said today. Tech companies’ convergence with digital advertising has pushed them outside the protection of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the Democrat said.

“In applying Section 230, I think we should consider whether immunity is conferred only to the companies that are mere conduits of communication,” Chopra told a Washington conference* audience. “A company engaged in or benefitting from behavioral advertising is not acting necessarily as that passive conduit.”

When tech companies package their users’ data into detailed demographics, they are in effect creating content, Chopra said. This kind of behavior increased as tech companies purchased advertisers, Chopra said, giving Google’s purchase of DoubleClick as an example.

“Behavioral advertising technology has altered the relationship between platform user and content by monetizing user activity and information.” Chopra said. “So, far from being a neutral or passive conduit, these platforms are now actively shaping and profiting from user communications.”

*American Bar Association Antitrust Section Spring Meeting 2019. Washington, DC. March 27-29, 2019.

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