Penalty proposed for social media censorship

LB621, sponsored by Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen, would require a dominant social media site to provide written notice within 30 days to any user whose account is disabled, suspended or censored.

Sen. Curt Friesen
Sen. Curt Friesen

Following the 2020 presidential election, Friesen said many social media companies began to censor posts and ban users for content that the companies found offensive or harmful.

“While I understand the importance of preventing violence, unaccountable social media giants — that are answerable only to their shareholders — are not the right entities to make these sorts of decisions, especially when these decisions can be made for any reason, with zero due process or accountability,” he said.

The bill defines a dominant social media site as one that has more than 75 million subscribers or users and has not been affiliated with a specific religion or political party from its inception.

The owner or operator of such a social media site would be fined $100,000 per violation if their actions would have been in violation of First Amendment protections had they been a government entity. Fines collected under LB621 would be remitted to the state treasurer for distribution to counties to support public schools.

Andrew Bish of Giltner spoke in support of the bill. Social media posts advertising his legal hemp farming operation have been censored, he said, under provisions prohibiting drug-related content.

“We actually had been censored by YouTube because we were harvesting hemp in the field by tractor,” Bish said. “The Farm Bill of 2018 legalized hemp federally, yet today I don’t have the same opportunities for advertising or outreach that some other places have.”

No one appeared at the hearing to testify in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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