North Dakota Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that could enable people who have been censored by Twitter and Facebook to sue the tech monopolies.
House Bill 1144 would “permit civil actions against social media sites for censoring speech.”
“If an interactive computer service provider restricts, censors or suppresses information that does not pertain to obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable subject matter, the interactive computer service provider is liable in a civil action for damages to the person whose speech is restricted, censored, or suppressed, and to any person who reasonably otherwise would have received the writing, speech, or publication,” the bill states.
It requires that the defendant be immune from civil liability under federal law, is not considered a publisher and has over a million users.
The damages could include compensatory, consequential, incidental and punitive.
The Epoch Times reported the plan, sponsored by six lawmakers, is called “an Act to permit civil actions against social media sites for censoring speech.”
North Dakota Republican state Rep. Tom Kading told the Grand Forks Herald, “It’s just wrong to ban a sitting president.”
Kading charged Facebook and Twitter violate their own terms of agreement signed by users when they ban or restrict content related to politics.
“Twitter’s rules stipulate that the site has ‘a zero tolerance policy against violent threats,’ and a post can be removed if it ‘includes a declarative call to action that could harm a specific individual or group.’ However, some critics of Twitter have argued that the firm has overstepped its bounds by creating its own definition and adds context about what ‘violent threats’ may be, while some have highlighted double-standards around content,” he said.
The tech giants already are opposing the bill.
The Times reported Akiva Cohen, a lawyer, contended on Twitter the law would be void because Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act preempts it.
The statute makes social media monopolies exempt from liability for the content of their users’ posts, regarding them as neutral platforms rather than publishers.
However, the platforms have been accused of acting as publishers by censoring, restricting and flagging certain content, particularly the views of conservatives.
The Epoch Times explained: “Section 230 has been criticized by conservatives as a law that essentially serves as a liability shield for Twitter and Facebook. The 1996 law states that providers and users of computer services shouldn’t be held liable for ‘any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.'”
The Section 230 protection has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and Joe Biden has called for its repeal.
A bipartisan team in the Senate has proposed requiring companies to be more transparent in how and why they “moderate” content.
Europe already has begun imposing some restrictions on the tech companies.
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