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New trade deal would make it harder to crack down on social media censorship

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WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Donald Trump promised that “all of our countries will benefit greatly” from the newly-signed trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but another provision has been discovered that raises concerns about far-reaching consequences for some of the president’s most loyal supporters.

Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), last week at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

“This is a model agreement that changes the trade landscape forever,” Trump said, and “will ensure a future of prosperity and innovation for Mexico, Canada, and the United States.” But Breitbart reveals that one of those changes threatens progress on an issue Trump himself has promised to confront: tech giants’ censorship of conservative views on their platforms.

The agreement’s “Article 19.17: Interactive Computer Services” says that “no Party shall impose liability on a supplier or user of an interactive computer service on account of [...] any action taken to enable or make available the technical means that enable an information content provider or other persons to restrict access to material that it considers to be harmful or objectionable.”

Breitbart tech expert Allum Bokhari says this essentially gives social media platforms and other online services immunity from any potential lawsuits over improper censorship of particular political views. At first glance the provision seems insignificant because it merely reflects similar language in U.S. law, but the danger is that enshrining it in an international agreement would make it all-but impossible for Congress to change without cooperation from their counterparts in other countries.

Online censorship is currently a hot-button issue over numerous instances not only of conservative voices improperly restricted on Facebook, Twitter, and the Google-owned YouTube, but of insiders at all three companies discussing their partisan motivations.

Facebook and Twitter insiders have admitted to targeting conservative accounts and topics, and multiple private exchanges have leaked expressing a desire to use their power to shape political narratives. Multiple analyses have found that Facebook’s algorithm changes disproportionately harmed conservatives. In September, PJ Media’s Paula Bolyard found evidence that Google manipulates search results to favor left-wing news sources.

Among the individuals and groups improperly restricted since 2016 are various Republican leaders, officeholders, and candidates; pro-life groups such as LifeSiteNews, Live Action, and Susan B. Anthony List; conservative commentator Jesse Kelly; Dennis Prager’s Prager University, “Activist Mommy” blogger Elizabeth Johnston; theologian Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon; conservative video bloggers Diamond and Silk; the group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality; the recent film Gosnell; and an upcoming film about Roe v. Wade.

President Trump has forcefully condemned the social media giants for “silencing millions of people,” and reportedly considered investigating Google and Facebook’s practices. Conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, suggest the problem should be addressed by repealing discriminatory platforms’ immunity from liability for the content they allow, which is predicated on their exercising of true neutrality.

While USMCA could complicate such efforts, Bokhari says that there’s still time to prevent the provision from taking effect.

“By January, Democrats will control the House of Representatives and the Senate will feature two new Republican senators, Marsha Blackburn and Josh Hawley, who are no friends of Silicon Valley tech giants,” he writes. “That will create a negotiating environment favorable to making broad changes to USMCA. It’ll also provide a window for the grassroots to voice its concerns and pressure Congress to remove the pro-censorship provision from USMCA.”

This is not the only provision of the new trade agreement to alarm conservatives. Last month, several Republican lawmakers raised concerns over language that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the three countries’ non-discrimination commitments, potentially complicating the Trump administration’s own efforts to restore clarity on the issue of biological sex.

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