Georgia Senate panel proposes social media censorship ban

A Georgia state Senate committee has advanced a proposal for the state to ban social media platforms from removing or censoring content amid an outcry from conservatives that their political views are being discriminated against, even though a Similar Texas law has been suspended by a federal government. to research.

The Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities on Tuesday voted 6-5 for Senate Bill 393, sending it to the full Senate for further debate. He states that the social media companies that have more than 20 million users in the United States are common carriers and cannot prevent people from receiving certain messages based on views, location, race, ethnic origin, religion, political beliefs, gender, sexuality. orientation or disability.

Republican State Sen. Greg Dolezal of Cumming said the measure was necessary to ensure everyone can participate in a crucial means of free speech.

“In the same way that I can walk out in front of the Capitol, walk out of this room, and deliver my speech without being censored, we believe the same should happen in the modern public square, which are these social media platforms” , said Dolezal.

Senate Republicans have declared it one of their priorities to pass this year. The move comes after social media companies banned Donald Trump in the final days of his presidency, adding to claims that conservatives are being treated unfairly.

But the tech industry says the measure is illegal, in part because it would unconstitutionally require private companies to host speech they disagree with. They also argue that private owners should be able to do whatever they want with their own property.

“Our members have a First Amendment right to exercise editorial discretion in deciding how to curate and moderate the content posted on their websites,” Chris Marchese, an attorney for trade group Net Choice, told the committee last week.

The researchers did not find widespread evidence that social media companies are biased against conservative news, posts, or materials.

In a 2021 report, New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights called the accusations political disinformation spread by Republicans.

The bill states that social media companies must publish how they moderate content, target content to specific users, and how they increase reach or hide specific content. It also says social media companies must publish a report every six months on how often they were alerted to potentially illegal content and how often they removed or minimized content and suspended or removed users.

Anyone who does not believe a company is following the law could bring a civil action, including a class action, in Georgia courts.

Servando Esparza, a lobbyist with trade group TechNet, warned last week that forcing a company to disclose its content moderation algorithm could provide a roadmap for people seeking to share things like child pornography to circumvent current protections.

Dolezal said companies can still remove illegal content.

The argument boils down to whether lawmakers and judges see Facebook more as a telephone company, which traditionally had to serve all users who pay their bills, or a print publisher who can say what he wants and ignore others. prospects within the framework of general directives.

Dolezal acknowledged the state would be sued if it passes the law, but argued that a Supreme Court challenge could break new ground.

Professor Adam Candeub of Michigan State University, who was deputy assistant secretary for telecommunications and public information and later associate deputy attorney general under Trump, claimed on Tuesday that social media censorship may have being thrown the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden and stifling meaningful scientific debate. respond to COVID-19. Although tech companies have announced a series of new rules regarding COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation during the pandemic, the lies have still found a large audience on the platforms.

“What’s the burden on social media companies?” Candeub asked. “They may have accounts they don’t like. It’s very hard to see what this huge imposition is unless the owners of the social media companies want to use their vast power to change public opinion.

But committee chairman Bill Cowsert, a Republican from Athens, noted the measure could have unintended consequences, noting Trump’s plans for his own social media site.

“He’s now building a network, a social media platform,” Cowsert said. “You would also prevent him from excluding radical left views that he might totally disagree with, if that were to pass, would you?”

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

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