Arkansas GOP State Rep introduces measure to stop social media censorship

A measure to stop social media censorship by Silicon Valley tech giants like Facebook and Twitter was introduced in the Arkansas State Legislature by state Rep. Johnny Rye, R-Trumann, last week.

If passed into law, companies like Facebook and Twitter would be declared public utilities and would face steep fines for censoring political or religious speech.

The measure, known as HB 1028, states:

The owner or operator of a social media website who resides in this state is subject to a private right of action by a social media website user if the social media website purposely:

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(i) Deletes or censors a social media website user’s religious speech or political speech; or

(ii) Uses an algorithm to suppress political speech or religious speech.

The measure imposes a minimum of $75,000 for each instance of censorship and allows for additional fines and penalties depending on the situation.

“A social media website that restores from deletion or removes the censoring of a social media website user’s speech in a reasonable amount of time may use that fact to mitigate any damages,” the bill says.

The proposal further says that companies like Facebook and Twitter “may not use the social media website user’s alleged hate speech as a basis for justification or defense to the social media website’s actions at trial.”

As we and others have reported, “hate speech” is often used as an excuse to censor speech moderators don’t like.  In one case, Facebook declared prayer for the protection of children “hate speech.”

Speech that calls for immediate acts of violence, is obscene, or is pornographic in nature is exempt from the proposal.  Big social media sites are also immune from actions taken by users who censor other users’ posts.

“The Attorney General may bring a civil cause of action under this section on behalf of social media website users who reside in this state whose religious speech or political speech has been censored by a social media website,” the bill adds.

Legislators in other states are also considering the measure, drafted by activist Chris Sevier, who explained:

Those individual websites are engaging in contracts with users in the states and can be regulated for bad faith, unfair dealing, and fraudulent inducement. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 would safeguard Internet providers and search engines from this act but not interactive individual websites with more than 75,000,000 people who market themselves as being open to the public and open to the sharing of ideas only to prove otherwise.

In my opinion, Facebook has perpetrated a form of fraudulent inducement, tortious interference of business relations, breach of the duty of care, unjust enrichment, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress by at first allowing conservatives and Christians to build a platform where they were supposedly free to express themselves only to then turn around and arbitrarily find some speech permissible and other speech impermissible.

A video explaining the proposal can be seen here.

As we and others reported, Facebook tore down over 800 pages and accounts, many of them espousing conservative political points of view.  Additionally, the social media giant has taken down Christian pages for questionable reasons.  One page, Warriors for Christ, was torn down even though page owners followed the directions given them by Facebook employees.

Republican candidates for office also found their social media outreach destroyed after their pages or accounts were either restricted or banned.

Facebook’s Orwellian enforcement was also the motivation for “Banned: How Facebook Enables Militant Islamic Jihad,” a book publish in 2016 by yours truly and American-Israeli Adina Kutnicki.

If passed and signed into law, Arkansas will become the first state to take direct action against big social media censorship.

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