With pro-life conservative Americans facing more social media censorship now than ever before, lawmakers in North Dakota are sensitive to their concerns. New legislation there would allow people to sue social media giants like Facebook and twitter for censoring them or deleting their accounts.
The new bill (pdf), sponsored by six legislators, is titled, “an Act to permit civil actions against social media sites for censoring speech,” and it stipulates that websites with more than 1 million users would be “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.”
For individuals who have been censored, compensation includes “treble damages for compensatory, consequential, and incidental damages,” according to the bill.
North Dakota state Rep. Tom Kading (R), a sponsor of the bill, explained his rationale.
“It’s just wrong to ban a sitting president,” Kading told the Grand Forks Herald, adding that the proposal is meant to provide a legal tool for those who live in North Dakota. He was referring to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms taking action against President Donald Trump.
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Kading further argued that Facebook and Twitter, namely, violate their own terms of agreement signed by users after they ban or restrict content related to politics.
Social media giants have not faced more lawsuits from disgruntled users in part because of the protections afforded to them under Section 230 of federal law. And there is some concern the bill, if it becomes law, wouldn’t overcome those problems.
Attorney Akiva Cohen wrote on Twitter that the law “would immediately be deemed void as preempted by Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act],” because “federal law is supreme over state law where they conflict, and this would create an express conflict.”
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 law gives a shield to companies that moderate user-generated content. Trump and other Republicans have said it should be repealed, arguing that Big Tech firms have essentially overstepped their bounds by moderating content.
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Facebook and Twitter have lost a combined $51 billion in market value since banning President Donald trump from their platforms as Americans across the country divest themselves from the companies’ stock offerings.
Yahoo! News reported that Twitter shares dive-bombed more “than 10% on Monday” following its decision to ban President Donald Trump from its site. “Shortly after market open Monday, the stock dropped as much as 12.3% to reach as low as $45.17 per share.” The stock has dropped from $51.48 right before the ban to $47.22 as an opening price today.
As the Business Insider reports, Facebook is losing value as well. Facebook saw $47.6 billion erased from its public valuation, while Twitter’s market cap dropped by $3.5 billion.