MADISON — Conservative state lawmakers have introduced a bill to ensure Wisconsin citizens “can engage in political speech unfiltered and uncensored by Big Tech.”
The tech accountability bill — authored by Sens. Julian Bradley (R-Franklin) and Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), and Reps. Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) and Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk) — is aimed at protecting free speech from the long arm of Big Tech censorship.
“It’s time to ensure that Mark Zuckerberg and his Silicon Valley liberal allies cannot restrict Wisconsinites’ political speech,” Bradley said. He announced the legislation Monday on the Jay Weber Show. “Free expression is one of the most vital components of our democratic republic. We must ensure our citizens can engage in political speech unfiltered and uncensored by Big Tech. It’s time for Facebook and Twitter to consistently and fairly enforce their own rules.”
Under the bill, Big Tech companies would be required to:
- Publish their moderation standards
- Apply moderation consistently across all of its users
- Give notification and an explanation for certain censoring actions, and provide annual notice of the types of algorithms used in content moderation, among other things
- Allow users to opt-out of an algorithm’s post prioritization.
The bill also prohibits social media companies from censoring content by or about candidates in Wisconsin or elected officials. Individuals would have the right to sue a social media platform that violates these provisions, with monetary penalties for de-platforming, as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a similar bill in May. He noted that many Sunshine State citizens have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in their places of birth, 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,” the Republican governor said.
The law empowers the Florida Election Commission to issue a $250,000 fine per day on social media companies that de-platform any candidate running for statewide office and $25,000 per day for candidates running for non-statewide office. It took effect earlier this month.
Republicans have called out Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and others for silencing conservative speech. Twitter and Facebook have banned former President Donald Trump.
DeSantis acknowledged that the bill could benefit Trump, but said it is aimed at addressing a broader range of issues related to tech giants.
“This bill is for everyday Floridians,” he said. “But I do think that’s another issue that has been brought to bear: When you de-platform the president of the United States but you let Ayatollah Khameini talk about killing Jews, that is off,” the governor said, according to the New York Post.
It didn’t take long for the industry to sue.
Three days after DeSantis signed the anti-censorship bill, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association filed a lawsuit claiming Florida’s law is an unconstitutional assault on free speech.
“Americans everywhere should oppose Florida’s attempt to run roughshod over the First Amendment rights of private online businesses,” NetChoice said in a statement. “By weakening the First Amendment rights of some, Florida weakens the First Amendment rights of all.”
Last month, U.S, Sen, Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bill loosening Big Tech’s immunity protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The legislation, too, allows Americans the ability to sue technology companies that “act in bad faith by selectively censoring political speech and hiding content created by their competitors.”
“For too long, Big Tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook have used their power to silence political speech from conservatives without any recourse for users,” Hawley said. “Section 230 has been stretched and rewritten by courts to give these companies outlandish power over speech without accountability. Congress should act to ensure bad actors are not given a free pass to censor and silence their opponents.”