Apparently Unwilling To Learn From Florida & Texas’s Failures, Georgia Moves Forward With Unconstitutional Content Moderation Bill
from the haven't-we-done-this-already dept
It seems that each week another ridiculously unconstitutional “content moderation” bill pops up in another state. Beyond the fact that nearly all of these bills are preempted by federal law (and are unconstitutional under the 1st Amendment) it seems that state legislatures feel the need to score political points. And it’s not just one party. As we’ve detailed, Republican legislatures are pushing bills trying to limit the ability of websites to moderate, while Democratic legislatures are pushing bills to force companies to moderate more. Both are unconstitutional.
So far, the Republican bills have gotten further, which means we already have examples of courts telling those state legislatures to knock it off. These kinds of laws have already been tossed out in both Florida and Texas as unconstitutional (though both rulings are now being appealed). But rather than recognizing that maybe this is a giant waste of taxpayer money, the state of Georgia appears to be moving forward, full steam ahead with its own such bill.
Facebook and Twitter would be prohibited from deleting posts or removing users based on the views they express, according to a bill that passed the Georgia Senate on Tuesday.
The legislation, supported by Republican senators who believe social media companies have censored GOP opinions, would allow the companies to be sued in Georgia courts.
The Senate voted 33-21 to approve the measure, Senate Bill 393, which now advances to the state House.
The text of the bill is just as dumb and clearly unconstitutional as you’d expect. First it just out and out declares social media a common carrier — despite that not making any sense at all. Then it says:
(a) A common carrier shall not censor or discriminate against a user, a user’s expression, or a user’s ability to receive the expression of another person based on:
(1) The viewpoint of the user or another person;
(2) The viewpoint represented in the user’s expression or another person’s expression;
(3) A user’s geographic location in this state or any part of this state; or
(4) The actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion, religious beliefs, political beliefs, political affiliation, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of a user or another person or of a class of users or a class of other persons.
(b) This Code section shall apply regardless of whether the viewpoint is an expression that is communicated on or through the common carrier or elsewhere.
So if your “viewpoint” is “kill all people who don’t look like me” you could not be suspended from social media, even if you spend all your time harassing people who don’t look like you. Hell, because of section (b) that includes if you do stuff off-platform as well.
Anyway, this is even more blatantly unconstitutional than both the Florida and Texas bills, which at least pretended to limit their scope and reach much more narrowly.
Perhaps hilariously recognizing that this bill is completely unworkable, they include an “exemption” for certain areas:
(a) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit or restrict a common carrier from censoring:
(1) An expression that the common carrier is specifically authorized to censor by federal law;
(2) Any unlawful expression, including, but not limited to, an expression that unlawfully harasses individuals or unlawfully incites violence; or
(3) Any expression that is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, or harassing
Of course, note that when it comes to harassment, they limit the exemption to action that “unlawfully” harasses, which covers almost none of what most people consider harassment. Also, the “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, or harassing” language is hilarious since it’s basically taken straight from Section 230 (which preempts this bill), but fails to recognize that such things are very much in the eye of the website owner themself.
In other words, this bill is a bill to wipe away Section 230 (which it can’t do as a state law), because now any removal would have to be litigated over the specific reasons for the removal.
Also, if you want to highlight just how much this is a bill of attainder directly targeting certain companies, it explicitly exempts “broadband services” — which actually do meet the common definition of a common carrier service. So broadband providers get the explicit right in this bill to kick people off the entire internet for their viewpoints, but Twitter cannot remove a harassing user. Genius.
And a total waste of taxpayer money.