Lankford, Thune, Colleagues Push to Hold Big Tech Accountable for Political Bias, Silencing Voices

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) joined Senator John Thune (R-SD)and 24 of their Republican colleagues today to introduce the Political Bias in Algorithm Sorting (BIAS) Emails Act. The straight-forward bill makes it illegal for Big Tech to automatically send emails to spam based upon a political preference and requires those companies publically disclose spam tactics that censor campaigns. This bill would hold Big Tech platforms accountable for using biased algorithms that take control away from consumers and alter the way users are able to see emails from political campaigns. The legislation would also create more transparency for consumers by revealing the censoring practices Big Tech platforms, including Google, use to filter certain emails.

“If you can control what people receive, you can control what people read,” said Lankford. “We cannot allow Big Tech to censor political views and parties they don’t like by hiding behind their algorithms, mass email preferences, and spam filter technology. Our bill provides a layer of protection for Americans to be sure Big Tech does not silence voices they do not like and influence our political process under cover of darkness.”

“I’ve long believed that Congress should hold Big Tech accountable to the users who rely on its platforms – for everything from email to social media – and empower those consumers to make their own online decisions, free from Big Tech’s heavy hand,” said Thune. “I’m proud to lead this effort that would prohibit large online platforms from censoring emails through filtered algorithms – a process that ultimately discriminates against political campaigns. Consumers should be able to choose what they want to see, not Google. It’s long past time for Big Tech to be held accountable for its blatant bias, and this bill would be an important step in that direction.”

Joining Lankford and Thune to introduce the bill were Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jim Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

“The evidence suggests that some actors in the tech industry display an undeniable pattern of ideological bias against conservatives,” said McConnell. “I applaud Senator Thune for leading legislation to push back against companies that use private-sector political censorship to quietly distort our public discourse. If left-wing elites disagree with citizens’ free speech, they should make their own case in an open marketplace of ideas, not use powerful technology platforms to put a thumb on the scale.”

“Big Tech is not the free speech police. They should never target the information Americans chose to receive based on political beliefs,” said Barrasso. “This legislation will prohibit email platforms from filtering political emails to spam without user consent and stop these companies from forcing their own biases on people in Wyoming and across the country.”

“The North Carolina State University study revealed concerning data that tech companies may be using email filtering algorithms to create an unfair advantage for Democrat campaigns,” said Blunt. “It’s hard to have truly fair elections when large email platforms are putting their thumb on the scale, deciding which messages can easily reach voters and which get buried in a spam folder. This legislation will help ensure a level playing field, increase accountability, and protect voters’ access to information.”

“When Big Tech targets and silences conservative voices and puts their thumb on the scale of our political process, they need to be held accountable and, at the very least, the public ought to know about it,” said Ernst. “This measure prevents these platforms from playing favorites in our elections and ensures there is transparency around how they treat political campaigns from one party versus another.”

“Republicans won’t sit back and allow Big Tech to be a pawn for the Left,” said Rick Scott. “Any suppression of conservative candidates is unacceptable. The Political BIAS Emails Act is an important step forward to hold Big Tech accountable for its attempts to silence conservative voices and increase transparency between large email platforms and political campaigns.”

To prevent Big Tech from hindering the access of voters to a candidate’s perspective on certain political issues and other relevant information, the Political BIAS Emails Act would prohibit email platforms, like Google, from using biased filtering algorithms on emails from federal political campaigns, unless a user took a proactive action to apply a certain label to that email. The legislation would also bring much more transparency to the practices large email services use to dictate outcomes by requiring email services to produce quarterly transparency reports.

Earlier this year, a non-partisan study found that Google’s algorithm marked nearly 70 percent of emails from Republican campaigns during the 2020 election as spam compared to only 8 percent of emails from Democrat campaigns. 

In April Lankford sent a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of Google Sundar Pichai regarding YouTube’s removal of videos from the Conservative Political Action Conference’s (CPAC) channel. YouTube, which is owned by Google, claims the videos contain “misleading information” but did not disclose what information was “misleading” to CPAC. Lankford participated in a panel at CPAC on Big Tech censorship during the February 2022 conference. He separately uploaded clips from his talk at the conference to YouTube, which have not been censored by Google, yet.