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Ga. Social Media Bill Gets Spirited Debate at Hearing

Georgia senators grilled tech industry officials opposing a social media bill that's like the Texas and Florida laws that were enjoined by federal district courts. At a livestreamed hearing Thursday, the Georgia Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee mulled SB-393…

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to treat large social websites as common carriers and require anti-discrimination of content. Chairman Bill Cowsert (R) said the bill would be back on the agenda for the committee’s Tuesday meeting. The bill would stop social media from banning “lawful but awful content” like bullying, racism and hate speech, testified Servando Esparza, TechNet executive director-Texas and the Southeast. Cowsert asked about concerns about “canceling certain voices” due to having a “certain political bent.” Users feel platforms are violating their free speech, he said. “If you say something that the censors at Facebook don't like, then you get silenced.” SB-393 infringes on private businesses’ First Amendment rights, replied Esparza. Sen. John Kennedy (R) asked if platforms had standards for what can and can’t be on platforms. Guidelines “evolve constantly,” as they must, said the TechNet official: For example, nobody could have foreseen kids daring each other to eat Tide Pods. Conservatives and Republicans both do well on social media, said NetChoice Policy Counsel Chris Marchese. For a long time, conservatives didn’t get a fair shot on traditional media, but then former President Donald Trump did very well on social media, he said. Cowsert returned that Trump got kicked off. The Constitution protects businesses deciding what speech to allow, said Marchese. Sen. John Albers (R) complained that he lost his law firm job after Twitter allowed him to be wrongly “canceled” when some groups made false claims about him about a year ago. Marchese said he was sorry to hear that, but it was the First Amendment, not Twitter, that allowed it to happen.