from the oh-knock-it-off dept
Having seen both Florida and Texas have their “you can’t moderate!” social media laws tossed out as unconstitutional (wasting a ton of taxpayer money in the process) you might think that other state legislatures would maybe pump the brakes on trying the same thing. No such luck. There are efforts underway in a bunch of states to pass similarly unconstitutional laws, including Utah, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio (not to mention states like New York pushing in the opposite extreme of requiring moderation). The latest to enter the fray is Georgia with its Common Carrier Non-Discrimination Act, with an astounding 24 ignorant co-sponsors who apparently hate the 1st Amendment.
The law is dead on arrival for a wide variety of reasons, but as you might have guessed from the name seeks to just randomly declare social media (and only social media) as “common carriers” and saying they can’t “discriminate” (and by “discriminate” they mean, “take down content from Nazis.”) The “declarations” on this bill are nonsense disconnected from reality.
Each person in this state has a fundamental interest in the free exchange of ideas and information, including, but not limited to, the freedom of others to share and receive ideas and information, regardless of their religious, political, or social beliefs or affiliations;
Yes, free speech means that you can say whatever you want, but it does not allow you to commandeer other’s property to do so. Because if it does, I’m demanding that the Georgia General Assembly read each day’s Techdirt posts into the official record every day. Otherwise, according to these silly, silly legislators, I’m being censored for my views.
As the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized, large social media platforms are the ‘modern public squares’
Neat attempt to elide the context of that statement, which was about the state banning people from social media, and not at all about the state forcing social media not to take down spam, trolls, and abuse.
In offering their services to all and providing a basic service to our economic, political, and social lives, social media platforms function as common carriers, are affected with a public interest, and are central public forums for public debate;
Social media platforms with the largest number of users are common carriers by virtue of their market dominance;
Except they don’t. Common carrier is not just a magic phrase you get to say as you wave a magic wand. It requires that the service actually be a common carrier — which means providing commodity-like, interchangeable services to transport goods or data from place a to place b. That’s not what social media does.
Anyway, the key clause in the bill is the part that says that social media sites, now declared to be common carriers, are not allowed to take down any content based on their beliefs or political affiliation, among other things.
(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.
So, under this standard, you cannot ban anyone for being a Nazi (“political affiliation”) or for calling for jihad (“religious beliefs”). So that’s just great.
Perhaps someone should point out that under this law, no social media website could “ban critical race theory.” It would also make it impossible for Trump’s new social network, TRUTH Social, to live up to its promise to make its site “family friendly.”
Anyway, as if to demonstrate how this bill is exceedingly performative, and not serious at all, it looks like someone (probably a telco lobbyist) pointed out that under this bill, if it applied to broadband providers would create net neutrality. But for nonsense reasons, Republican politicians have decided that net neutrality is evil — even though broadband providers actually do fit the traditional classifications as a common carrier, so the bill explicitly says it does not apply to broadband ISPs:
‘Social media platform’ means an internet website or application that is open to the public, allows a user to create an account, and enables users to communicate with other users for the primary purpose of posting information, comments, messages, or images.
Such term does not include an:
(A) Internet service provider or provider of broadband services;
So, the things that are not common carriers are declared common carriers, and the things that are common carriers are declared not common carriers.
People of Georgia: stop electing ignorant buffoons.
At least it doesn’t have a theme park exemption, I guess.
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Filed Under: 1st amendment, common carrier, content moderation, florida, georgia, texas
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