(The Center Square) – A pair of Republican lawmakers in Madison are wading into the debate over online free speech.
Rep. Shae Sortwell, R-Gibson, and Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, on Wednesday introduced three pieces of legislation they say will protect people’s free speech right on social media.
“Big Tech has long been violating people’s free speech rights through deleting, censoring, and shadow-banning because they disagree with what is posted or who is posting it,” Sortwell said. “And now, Big Tech is colluding with President Biden to suppress free speech and push his agenda. Government cannot simply bypass their Constitutional restrictions by having businesses do their dirty work for them.”
Sortwell and Roth’s plans include:
- LRB 2090, which provides a civil cause of action for any Wisconsin resident against a social media company who censors, shadow-bans, or otherwise alters a user’s speech on social media sites.
- LRB 3211, which protects the ability of journalistic outlets to publish their materials on social media by creating a cause of action for journalistic outlets to push back on social media giants’ censorship of their publications.
- LRB 4301, which implements a penalty structure for government officials in Wisconsin who choose to engage in unethical conduct in direct violation of the First Amendment’s principles. Sortwell said the idea is to push back on what has become an increasingly aggressive political tone and censorship online.
“We expect this kind of suppression in China, but it is disturbing that we have allowed it to occur in America, the Land of the Free,” Sortwell added.
None of the plans are likely to become law.
Even if they pass the Republican-controlled legislature, it’s unlikely Gov. Evers would sign them. And then there are the legal challenges.
A federal judge earlier this year struck down a Florida law that aimed to do many of the same things. The judge in that case said the laws threatened Facebook’s and Twitter’s free speech rights.