Free Speech

Tell Congress: Don't Turn Messaging Services Into DEA Informants

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The Cooper Davis Act would turn some of the most popular online platforms into Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informants. The content-scanning tools that would likely be used have large error rates, and would sweep up innocent conversations, including discussions about past drug use or treatment. This bill contains no warrant requirement, no required notice, and limited user protections, and deserves to be defeated on the Senate floor.

Under the law, providers would be required to report to the DEA when they gain actual knowledge of facts about drug sales or when a user makes a reasonably believable report about those sales. Importantly, providers can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for a failure to report. The law may also give internet companies incentive to conduct dragnet searches of private messages to find other protected speech, and would create a template for legislators to try to force internet companies to report their users to law enforcement for other unfavorable conduct or speech.

The law also makes a “request” that providers preserve the report and other relevant information (so law enforcement can potentially obtain it later). And it prevents providers from telling their users about the preservation, unless they first notify the DEA. This bill aims to cut down on the illegal sales of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and counterfeit narcotics. But what would prevent the next bill from targeting marijuana or the sale or purchase of abortion pills, if a new administration deemed those drugs unsafe or illegal for purely political reasons? As we've argued many times before, once the framework exists, it could easily be expanded. Tell your Senator and representative to vote NO on this bill.


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