TTP Report: J.D. Vance’s Plan to Weaken Big Tech Has a Notable Loophole
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 13, 2023
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report detailing how Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) could stand to profit from his own plan to reform Section 230 – the law that shields online platforms from liability for user-generated content. Notably, Vance has proposed getting rid of Section 230 for big tech companies but keeping it in place for smaller, “new entrants” into the market like right-wing social media platforms Truth Social and Gettr. This arrangement could stand to benefit Vance, who has invested in Rumble – the anti-“cancel culture” alternative to YouTube that benefits from 230 protections to shield it from litigation.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “By embracing and inviting far-right conspiracies as part of its brand identity, Rumble benefits from the legal protections afforded by Section 230. As an investor, Sen. Vance is likely aware of the litigation Rumble could face without 230, and he appears intent on using his position to protect his and the company’s common financial interests.”
Both Vance and his mentor, billionaire Peter Thiel, invested in Rumble in May 2021. Vance would later describe himself as Rumble’s first outside investor, and his stake today could be worth between $577,300 and $1.5 million. TTP’s report notes that Rumble’s editorial slant began to change around the time of the Vance-Thiel investment, as the platform went from highlighting innocuous videos of animals and toddlers to promoting anti-vaccine content and other right-wing conspiracy theories.
Rumble hosts and promotes a large amount of content that could be subject to litigation without Section 230, and acknowledges to investors that any narrowing of the 230 provision could be damaging to the company. Dinesh D’Souza’s film 2000 Mules, for example, is available for streaming on a platform owned by Rumble; various participants in the production and distribution of the film have been sued for defamation, but—presumably thanks to Section 230 protections—Rumble has avoided a suit.
In justifying his positions around Section 230, Vance has claimed that Big Tech firms have a “stranglehold” on the market, warning, “They’re going to use that army of lawyers and that army of regulators and they’re going to destroy the new entrants.” While lawmakers have floated a number of proposals in recent years for reforming Section 230, Vance’s proposal appears to be the only one that ties legal immunity exclusively to a platform’s size.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “You wouldn’t impose stricter regulations on cigarettes based on the size of the company that made them. But, of course, Vance’s proposal appears to be designed not with the public, but with his and Rumble’s financial interests in mind—and that’s precisely the type of conflict of interest that shouldn’t be tolerated with our elected officials.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.