Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Bills To Punish Social Media Websites For Perceived Censorship

Feb 23, 2021

Credit Pxfuel

The Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced two bills from Republican lawmakers aimed at perceived social media censorship.

Senate Bill 383 by Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) would grant users the ability to sue certain sites if their political or religious posts are taken down. ACLU of Oklahoma says the bill would also prohibit sites from moderating hate speech, a term that lacks a precise legal definition and that Standridge’s bill pins to someone’s "personal moral code."

Sen. Michael Brooks (D-Oklahoma City) asked Standridge why hate speech isn’t better defined.

"If the Supreme Court came up with a definition of hate speech, would that probably be the appropriate one, as it had been established by federal law?" Brooks said.

"Since we’re not having a court rule whether it’s hate speech or not, we’re trying to reduce the acceptable means of censorship to those means that violate the rules within the social media companies, such as inciting violence," Standridge said.

SB383 defines social media websites as those open to the public with more than 75 million users and unaffiliated with any political party or religion. The bill would set minimum damages of $75,000.

The committee also approved Senate Bill 1019 by Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow). It would subject websites to a $10,000 fine any time they "participate in censorship activities" or remove content not prohibited by law.

"Or, if they are receiving any sort of tax credit or tax break here in this state, they would also be subject to losing that tax credit or tax break," Dahm said.

Language in Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act preempts the bills. ACLU of Oklahoma Director of Policy and Advocacy Nicole McAfee responded specifically to SB383.

"It is an embarrassment that this bill would not only make an agenda but continue to advance through the legislative process. SB 383 is an overreach of government power and a shame to our state," McAfee said in a statement.