A proposed bill from Republican state lawmakers in North Dakota could see Facebook and Twitter face lawsuits from users who have been censored on their platforms. Some experts argue the law would have no effect due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), the law that enables the Big Tech Masters of the Universe to enjoy legal immunity in cases related to censorship.
Ars Technica reports that a new bill submitted by six legislators last week titled “an Act to permit civil actions against social media sites for censoring speech,” states that websites with over 1 million users would be “liable in a civil action for damages to the person whose speech is restricted, censored, or suppressed, and to any person who reasonably otherwise would have received the writing, speech, or publication.”
Compensation for censored users would include “treble damages for compensatory, consequential, and incidental damages.” Experts believe the bill would likely have no effect even if it was passed due to a conflict with federal law. Attorney Akiva Cohen wrote in a Twitter thread that the proposed law “would immediately be deemed void as preempted by Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act],” because “federal law is supreme over state law where they conflict, and this would create an express conflict.”
Section 230 is a law enacted in 1996 that states that providers and users of computer services shall not be held liable for “any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
As a result, social media companies that moderate user-generated content are legally protected. North Dakota Rep. Tom Kading (R) is the lead sponsor of the North Dakota bill and has previously expressed his anger over the recent Facebook and Twitter suspensions of President Trump, stating: “It’s just wrong to ban a sitting president.”
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