HomeNewsOpponents slam bill reining in content regulation by social media platforms

Opponents slam bill reining in content regulation by social media platforms

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by Dave Williams | Mar 23, 2022 | Capitol Beat News Service 

ATLANTA – Legislation prohibiting giant social media platforms from censoring content based on the author’s viewpoint drew criticism on several fronts Wednesday in a Georgia House committee.

Some opponents argued the bill, which the state Senate passed two weeks ago, is an unconstitutional violation of the free-speech rights of companies including Facebook and Twitter. Others said it could foster harassment of vulnerable young people.

Senate Bill 393 would prohibit social media platforms with more than 20 million followers from discriminating against an author posting content based not only on the person’s viewpoint but his or her race, color, ethnicity, religious or political beliefs, national origin, sex, gender or sexual orientation. The companies still could keep obscene or pornographic content off their sites.

“What we’re trying to do with this bill is eliminate viewpoint-based censorship,” Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, the bill’s chief sponsor, told members of the House Judiciary Committee.

The legislation was sparked when Facebook and Twitter suspended former President Donald Trump’s accounts last year following the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.

Similar bills to the Georgia measure passed by lawmakers in Texas and Florida are being challenged in court. Opponents argued Wednesday the Georgia bill’s backers should wait for the results of those cases before moving forward.

“Why should Georgians have to pay for the litigation?” asked Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven. “Why not wait to see what the courts say?”

Rep. Mike Wilensky, D-Dunwoody, said giving people virtually free rein to post content on giant social media platforms would allow cyber bullying of teens. In some instances, teenagers have committed suicide after being targeted on social media.

“These platforms are doing a good job these days controlling harassment,” Wilensky said. “This bill will eliminate these platforms from saving lives.”

But Dolezal said his bill would allow social media platforms to prevent harassment. He said his bill would strike a blow for free speech and open discussion.

“Social media companies are the 21st century public square,” he said. “Any idea – no matter how asinine – we believe there is room in this country to discuss.”

The committee will hold at least one more hearing on the bill before deciding whether to move it forward.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The federal DOJ should be filing anti-trust lawsuits against big companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon, VISA, Mastercard, Gannett Publishing, and Microsoft. In the past, the feds prosecuted Standard Oil, AT&T, and Kodak for their monopolistic business practices. It’s time to protect consumers from the latest generation of monopolies and their violations of the consumer’s First Amendment rights.

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