Here are two more articles…one about governor Ron DeSantis in Florida and the other about governor Ron Abbott in Texas…
Florida Anti-Censorship Proposal Tries to Sidestep Section 230 Protections
BY PETR SVAB February 7, 2021 Updated: February 7, 2021 for The Epoch Times
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is taking a stand against social media censorship with a proposed bill that would allow fining and suing tech platforms for certain content policing decisions. Companies such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter enjoy broad liability protection under the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The proposal, however, appears to attempt to sidestep those protections by asking for more transparency, tying anti-censorship measures to state election regulations, and giving users more control over content policing.
Section 230 shields internet platforms from liability 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.”
Some have argued that social media companies have interpreted the part “otherwise objectionable” too broadly and that it wasn’t meant to encompass political speech the companies claim to find “objectionable.”
The Florida proposal takes a different approach. It would first require that the companies publish their content policing standards. Major social media like Facebook and Google-owned YouTube don’t fully explain their content policies, claiming it would lead to users dodging them. The law would apparently force them to fully reveal their standards.
Users would receive a “detailed explanation and written notice after being deplatformed or shadowbanned,” said Florida State house Speaker Chris Sprowls at a Feb. 2 press conference with DeSantis announcing the bill proposal.
Further, the bill would ban “arbitrarily censoring and/or de-platforming users.” That could possibly stop the companies from censoring on an ad hoc basis, beyond what their content rules say.
“When social media companies apply these standards unequally on users, this is discrimination, pure and simple,” DeSantis said during the presser. “Can you imagine tolerating this kind of behavior in banking or in healthcare or in other industries?”
Online Civil Rights
The idea to make social media access a civil right of sorts and enforce it though state-level legislation was previously proposed in 2019 by conservative lawyer Will Chamberlain, the editor-in-chief of news website Human Events.
“It will be a very serious challenge to get a federal law passed protecting this civil right, given the current composition of Congress. But states with heavily Republican legislatures can pass laws that protect their state’s citizens from de-platforming,” he wrote in an op-ed.
“And if they do so, Facebook, Twitter, and Google will have to comply if they want to keep doing business in that state.”
To the critics who say regulating content policing opens the door to government censorship, he pointed out that the Supreme Court already ruled in 2017 that social media are “the modern public square” to which the government cannot prevent people’s access.
“The concerns about government regulation being turned around to constrain speech are simply unfounded,” he wrote.
Moreover, he proposed that instead of a regulatory agency, the enforcement of social media access should be left to courts.
The Florida proposal appears to follow that blueprint, promising to allow both Florida residents as well as its Attorney General to sue the tech companies for violating the law.
Opting In or Out?
DeSantis also proposes to “give users the power to opt out of algorithms” that tech companies use to sort and filter content.
A similar idea was proposed by author and Breitbart journalist Allum Bokhari in 2018.
He argued that there’s no need for social media companies to ban or delete any lawful content. Instead, they should give users the option to turn on any objectionable content filters of their own volition.
Bokhari went further than DeSantis, proposing the filters should be “strictly opt-in” and any content a filter would apply to should be labelled as such so users would know what effects the filters would have on their news feeds.
“While it wouldn’t eliminate them as a political threat, opt-in filters would still severely hamper the ability of big tech CEOs to influence elections,” Bokhari said in an op-ed. “They would forever lose the power to permanently purge wrongthinkers from the digital public square. No matter how many filters they slap on a conservative account, users would still have to consciously choose not to view the content.”
DeSantis also wants to regulate and fine tech companies for election meddling.
“Big tech has been manipulating news content and designing algorithms to give the upper hand to their candidates of choice and they do so scot-free,” he said.
The proposed law would impose a $100,000-per-day fine on a company that disables the account of a Florida candidate for office.
“Any Floridian can deplatform any candidate they choose. They simply unsubscribe. And it’s a right that I believe belongs with the citizen,” DeSantis said.
“Further, if a technology company promotes a candidate for office against another, the value of that free promotion must be recorded as a political campaign contribution.”
Companies would also face daily fines if they use their algorithms to “suppress or prioritize” content related to candidates or ballot measures.
“The message is loud and clear: When it comes to elections in Florida, Big Tech should stay out of them,” the Governor said.
Facebook, Google, and Twitter didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on DeSantis’s proposal.
Texas Working on Bill to Prevent Big Tech Censorship, Following Florida’s Footsteps
BY JANITA KAN February 8, 2021 Updated: February 8, 2021 for The Epoch Times
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Sunday that he was working on a bill with legislators in his state to prevent big tech companies taking action to moderate user content based on their political viewpoint.
His announcement follows Florida’s move to pass legislation that would penalize social media companies that de-platform candidates during an election. The proposed law would fine companies $100,000 a day until the candidate’s access to the platform is restored.
Florida will also require companies who promote a candidate to record such endorsements as a political campaign contribution at the state’s election commission.
Several states are taking steps to protect the free flow of speech and prevent Silicon Valley companies from using their monopoly to police speech that they do not agree with. These companies have repeatedly been scrutinized for their perceived political bias and alleged unbalanced moderation of users’ content. Critics say much of the companies’ moderation in the past year has focused on conservative speech and speech from individuals deemed supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Hughes, a Republican, told Inside Texas Politics that the bill he and Abbott intend to introduce will address any unbalanced moderation of user accounts by social media companies like Twitter and Facebook.
“Federal law does allow us to regulate these companies and so the bill we’re getting ready to file will say that if a company discriminates against you, if the platforms blocks or kicks you off based on your viewpoint, based on your politics or religion based on viewpoint discrimination, it will give you a way to get back online,” Hughes said.
Google, Facebook, and Twitter did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
On the same day, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also confirmed that his state will take further steps to address big tech censorship, adding that the state has already started by filing an anti-trust lawsuit against Google in December.
“I am so encouraged with what he’s doing in Florida. Thank you Gov. [Ron] DeSantis for doing that,” Paxton told Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures. “We have already started. We have a lawsuit against Google that focuses some of the very issues about their dominance, about how they abuse consumers, about how they take their private information, they don’t pay these consumers and they then use that information to make billions of dollars without the consumer really knowing how their private information is going to be used.”
“So yes, I think you’re going to see more from my state in the coming months and coming years because if we don’t do something now, it’s maybe too late and these companies will have such dominance and so much money,” he added.
Paxton took the lead in filing that multi-state lawsuit against Google, alleging that the technology behemoth had violated multiple federal and state antitrust and consumer protection laws. The lawsuit accused Google of engaging in false, misleading, and deceptive acts while the company was selling, buying, and auctioning online-display ads.
Trump and his Justice Department have repeatedly urged Congress to roll back liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act for companies that have engaged in censoring or political conduct. They have accused the companies of acting as publishers rather than online platforms when they engage in targeted moderation of user content. Protections under section 230 is not intended to be used to protect publishers.
Meanwhile, the push to remove Section 230 protections have received push back from technology groups.