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Clarke Introduces H.R. 3284, The Civil Rights Modernization Act Of 2021

Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), announced the introduction of the Civil Rights Modernization Act of 2021 (H.R.3184). The bill will amend Section 230 of the Communications Act to ensure that civil rights laws apply to the targeting of advertisements.

There is a history of discriminatory targeting of advertisements that has harmed society by allowing consumers to be excluded from seeing certain ads. These harms are not theoretical and occur in real-time – with particularly troubling implications for communities of color. Personal data such as gender, race, hobbies and interests, and zip code are used to limit the online visibility of many opportunities, thus perpetuating inequities in housing opportunities, credit and employment.

“Harmful advertising practices that target communities of color, women, and other marginalized groups are increasing in scale and consequence. To comprehensively address these civil rights implications, Section 230 must be reformed. This legislation is a necessary step to addressing civil rights violations during these unprecedented times,” said Clarke. “We must address platform accountability issues thoughtfully, with a robust conversation around the impact of some proposed guardrails that will protect our digital community. H.R. 3184 achieves this.”

“Protecting Americans’ civil rights is more important than ever—this bill put forward by Congresswoman Clarke updates and modernizes these bedrock protections for the 21st Century. Targeted ads have been used to exclude people from voting, housing, job opportunities, and other beneficial economic activity on the basis of race, sex, age, and other protected statuses. As more and more of our lives occur online, ensuring that these protections can be enforced online is critical. As we have seen with the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the attack on the Capitol on January 6th – these platforms need greater accountability,” said Congressman Mike Doyle, Chair of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. “I look forward to working with Congresswoman Clarke and with my colleagues on the Committee on this legislation. We also plan to release additional proposals that together will form a comprehensive package to help reform existing law and ensure that online platforms are working to benefit our democracy and not against it.” 

Full bill text can be found here

Organizational Support

“Social media platforms have argued for an overly broad interpretation of Section 230 that would allow them to escape liability when they deploy their algorithms to target ads for housing, employment, and financial services toward White users and away from Black, Latina/o, and other users of color. This is wrong. The Civil Rights Modernization Act of 2021 makes clear that social media companies are not immune from landmark civil rights laws. This thoughtful bill is tailored to address a real problem, and it represents a major step in advancing platform accountability,” said Spencer Overton, President, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Professor of Law, George Washington University

“Free Press Action welcomes the draft’s focus on the civil rights violations that platforms’ own targeting of advertisements can cause, separate and apart from the information contained in those ads. We look forward to continuing discussions like these about clarifying and strengthening our civil rights framework for preventing abusive and discriminatory data practices,” said Gaurav Laroia, Senior Policy Counsel, Free Press Action.

“I commend [Congresswoman Clarke for] the Civil Rights Modernization Act of 2021. For over 45 years, it’s been illegal nationwide to exclude people from getting ads for jobs, housing, and credit due to their race, sex, or other protected statuses. This bill will ensure that no online platform can claim immunity for profiting from the illegal targeting of ads. It underscores that the internet is not a civil rights-free zone,” said Peter Romer-Friedman, a principal of Gupta Wessler PLLC and former labor counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

“The violent Capitol attack made clear that the rules governing the internet need to change, as insurgents easily organized on multi-billion-dollar digital platforms with business models that incentivize the spread of violent clickbait conspiracies,” said Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson. “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was written on a foundational principle of a free, fair, and open internet — which allows advocates like Color Of Change to challenge powerful interests that enable harm to Black communities. But it was never meant to shield enormously powerful tech companies from accountability. The Civil Rights Modernization Act of 2021 proposed by Rep. Clarke is a measured step in the right direction to ensuring that the immensely profitable digital ads business that fuels social media platforms is not allowed to flaunt bedrock civil rights protections.”


Yvette D. Clarke has been in Congress since 2007. She represents New York’s Ninth Congressional District, which includes Central and South Brooklyn. Clarke is a Senior Member of the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, and Homeland Security.


Media contact: Remmington Belford c: 202.480.5737

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