An Arkansas state representative has filed a bill allowing social media websites to be sued for removing certain religious and political posts, whether or not the platforms deem the posts to be hate speech.
House Bill 1028, titled the “Stop Social Media Censorship Act,” was filed Wednesday by Rep. Johnny Rye, a Republican from Trumann. It proposes a minimum civil damage amount of $75,000 for each post that’s removed or censored through an algorithm or other means. Under the bill, social media sites are considered a public utility subject to “special government regulation.”
The bill applies to social media sites with at least 75 million users, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It allows the Arkansas attorney general to bring civil litigation against those companies on behalf of social media users in the state.
“What’s also curious about this bill is that the owner of that — or the operator of that social media platform is only liable if they live in Arkansas so I’m not aware of any of those platforms or operators living in Arkansas,” said John DiPippa, Dean Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas Little Rock law school.
Rye, who is an active Facebook user, said Thursday that he authored the bill in response to a “movement going on across our nation” to censor certain content, particularly religious posts, on social media. He could not point to a specific case of online censorship and said no one in his district had raised the issue.
“We’re just trying to make sure that folks have freedom of speech,” he said.