A number of bills have been rolled out recently which aim to hold social media companies accountable for censoring and banning accounts that lean heavily right of center politically.
Of these proposed bills, most are centered around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 U.S.C. § 230).
But what does that mean exactly?
It means, more or less, that social media platforms (or any site that publishes third-party content) are removed from all liability for what others say or do on their sites.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, from a more vast 1996 federal law on telecoms, states “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” can be removed from companies as long as they’re acting in “good faith”, without any penalties or liabilities.
What has caused concern over any changes being made to CDA230 is an argument by some that state lawmakers could be interfering with the editorial processes of so called “private companies”, depending on the specifics.
In Idaho, a new bill HB323 was posted by the State Affairs Committee, which states: “This legislation protects against wrongful censorship by social media websites; providing definitions; providing that the owner or operator of a social media website is subject to a private right of action by certain social media users in this state under certain conditions; providing for damages; authorizing the award of reasonable attorney fees and costs; providing exceptions for the deletion or censorship of certain types of speech”.
Idaho isn’t the only state fighting Big Tech Censorship. During a recent webinar, Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell explained, “There are now 19 states that are taking actions to rein in Big Tech at the state level, which is very encouraging.”
Bozell added, “81 percent of Americans – not liberals, not conservatives, not Republicans, not Democrats – across the board, 81 percent of Americans now believe that Big Tech needs to be regulated, that there needs to be anti-trust regulation to break those companies up. They are far too powerful. They’re the most powerful companies in the history of man.”
“They’re now interfering in the single most basic right of all Americans, which is the right of free speech,” Bozell explained. “If you say something contrary to the narrative, you’re shut down. Or in fact, you’re just thrown off the platform altogether.”
During the same webinar, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also chimed in with his thoughts on the landscape of the digital soap box saying, “Some of these tech companies are so large and so monopolistic and so abusive in their actions that we have to take action.”
CBN News recently reported that Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has also been working on a state bill that like Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, proposes fines for social media companies on a per-case or daily basis if they censor or deplatform users. As part of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, it would require social media companies pay $10,000 for each violation.
“How does a company find itself in violation?” Rutledge asked. “If they put someone in their jail, if they cancel their account, put it on hold to demonetize that individual or that company, or they act not in good faith.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has also proposed similar legislation that would remove the ability by social media companies to “block, ban, remove, de-platform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny” any views they don’t approve of.
Abbott recently came under fire, and rightfully so, for falsely claiming that free speech site Gab is an “anti- Semitic platform” that has no place in Texas. Conservative journalist Laura Loomer, who is also the Most Banned Woman In The World, penned an op ed in defense of Gab.
Florida also recently rolled out legislation called The Transparency in Technology Act which calls for tech platforms to disclose the data being collected on Floridians to each individual user, and delete the information if requested.
“I’m committed to addressing what may be one of the most pervasive threats to American self-government in the 21st century,” DeSantis said. “Big tech has come to look more like big brother with each passing day.”
DeSantis suggested fining tech companies each day they deplatform Florida political candidates, as well as daily fines for any company ‘that uses algorithms to suppress or prioritize the access of any content related to a political candidate or ballot issue. While the bill at first glance seemed appealing, Loomer did a deeper dive into the proposed legislation and found many flaws and loopholes with the bill, discovering that it would do little to nothing to protect candidates in Florida, as well as Floridians. You can read her extensive report here.
DeSantis believes, along with millions of other social media users, that individual users should have the ability to opt out of content algorithms and that it is the right of citizens to take legal action if those terms are violated by social media companies.
On Monday, Florida resident and Congressional candidate Laura Loomer testified before the House Appropriations Committee at the Florida State Capitol, addressing her concerns with the bill.
“Effective bills have three strong pillars: clear definitions, effective protections, and strong punitive enforcements. In its current draft, the bill does not address candidates who were previously banned and deplatformed prior to running for office nor does it address current elected officials who could also be deplatformed,” Loomer explained.
“Further, the bill does not appear to address penalties for telecommunication companies and internet service provider companies that similarly have been known to deplatform candidates, people, and business owners for simply having an opinion,” she continued.
Loomer also went on to describe her experience during Hurricane Dorian- when alerts were going out over social media and rides were being offered via Uber and Lyft for safe haven, which she was denied access to due to her bans.
Following Loomer’s testimony, the bill was passed in a 19-8 vote. However, this doesn’t mean the bill is now law. It will next move to a vote in the Florida House Judiciary Committee.
Loomer will also be attending the committee hearing on House Bill 7013 in the Florida House Judiciary Committee on March 24 in Tallahassee, the bill’s next stop before it moves to the Florida Senate.
On Friday, Loomer provided an update about the status of her lawsuit against Big Tech which is pending review in the Supreme Court of the United States. In a statement, she said,
“The Supreme Court has just rescheduled for a FIFTH time its conference to decide whether to grant the petition for writ of certiorari in the landmark antitrust and First Amendment case I filed along side Freedom Watch against Big Tech giants Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple for discriminating against conservatives and others and abridging our rights of free speech. My attorney and I trust that this means that the High Court is taking our virtually important case seriously in making a reasoned decision whether to take it up for full court review.
Given the rampant and very destructive Cancel Culture that now pervades our body politic, this is a major case for Supreme Court review.”
Laura Loomer will be closely monitoring movements in State Legislatures across the country to take on Big Tech.