Pennsylvania Considers Bill That Would Allow Residents to Sue Big Tech Over Censorship

Pennsylvania Considers Bill That Would Allow Residents to Sue Big Tech Over Censorship
Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano attends a hearing of the Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Policy Committee in Gettysburg, Pa., on Nov. 25, 2020. (Julio Cortez/AP Photo)
Christopher Burroughs

Two Pennsylvania state senators are seeking to pass a bill that would allow residents to sue social media companies that censor their content based on political or religious views.

Sens. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) and Scott Hutchinson (R-Oil City) sponsored state Senate Bill 604 (pdf), called the Social Media Accountability Act, that would allow individuals the ability to sue Big Tech social media companies like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter for banning or censoring their account.

The current version of the bill indicates an individual can receive up to $75,000 in damages. The bill also requires social media providers to clearly indicate the reason for any ban or disabled account within 30 days along with a course of action for reinstatement.

“This type of legislation represents the most effective way to fight back against biased big tech employees censoring and banning free speech that they don’t like,” Mastriano said in a statement.

“Our rights to free speech are clearly enshrined in the first amendment. That right should not end in the public sphere of social media. Social media companies are censoring users whose religious and political views offend the delicate sensibilities of big tech oligarchs. Our bill will hold these censors accountable by allowing everyday citizens of Pennsylvania to sue for damages up to $75,000,” he added.

According to Hutchinson, the goal is the fair treatment of individuals, regardless of a person’s political and religious beliefs.

“In recent years we have seen numerous cases of unfair, inconsistent, and often one-sided censorship of social media users,” Hutchinson said in the statement. “The goal of our legislation is to ensure that all social media users are treated fairly, regardless of their political and religious beliefs.”

The bill has been referred to the Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee where it now awaits a vote.

The legislation is not the first attempt by a state to push back against social media censorship. In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) signed a bill to allow companies to sue social media companies over censorship issues.

The Florida bill, Senate Bill 7072, focused on organizations at risk of losing business over social media censorship.

“This session, we took action to ensure that ‘We the People’—real Floridians across the Sunshine State—are guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites,” DeSantis said in a statement.

“Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in Cuba and Venezuela. If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable,” he added.

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