Three representatives in the Georgia House are cautioning their colleagues in drafting state legislation which would impact Section 230 of the federal Communication Decency Act.
State Representatives Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain), Sandra Scott (D-Rex,) and Donna McLeod (D-Lawrenceville) each expressed their opposition even if “proposed legislation impacts the removal of content that has proven to incite violence.”
These legislators serve as members of the House Science & Technology Committee, which recently held a hearing to discuss internet platforms and constitutionally protected speech on Thursday, May 20.
“It would be a mistake to change the law to increase the likelihood of costly lawsuits,” said these legislators. “We caution a rush to repeal and/or reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as this legislation helps protect the free expression of ideas, limits the infringement on our freedom of association and freedom of speech.”
Reps. Davis, Scott and McLeod oppose testimony that was provided at the recent hearing by James Taylor, president of the Heartland Institute. These legislators are concerned that the issue of censorship of speech by large technology companies has only gained more attention after several events, including the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, Facebook and Twitter banning former President Donald Trump and the removal of the Parler app from the iPhone App Store and Google Play.
“Organizations like the Heartland Institute have been using underhanded measures to push their political agenda,” said Rep. McLeod. “In that push, they have stooped to equate the plight of Black people, who have been fighting for their humanity since the day they landed on these shores. It would be in the best interest of organizations like the Heartland Institute to stop minimizing the atrocities committed against Black people and start being truthful about their motives. Using a 501c3 nonprofit status to mask your true intention is despicable, especially to those nonprofits who are trying to genuinely help others.”
“Insurrection is defined as a violent uprising and revolt against an authority or government, and I view the banning of insurrectionists and their enablers by private internet companies, such as Facebook, Twitter and the like, falls within our laws,” said Rep. Davis. “As a veteran and elected official that has taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, I take any acts affecting the freedom of speech seriously.”
Reps. Davis, Scott and McLeod support efforts to ensure websites are free to moderate content and protect internet platforms from liability for third-party content, unless they are complicit in the development of illegal content such as content that is sexually obscene or excessively violent. They specifically seek to protect language in the federal law, such as the Communications Decency Act, which states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
“I also served my country as a soldier and elected official and took an oath to defend the Constitution,” said Rep. Scott. “I want to ensure that local and state legislation does not limit free speech by opening the door to a flood of lawsuits from people who don’t like what you say online. We have a right to free speech and should not worry about being sued.”
For more information on Communications Decency Act, please click here.
A video recording of the House Science & Technology Committee’s recent hearing can be viewed here.