Regulating technology could get some attention in Illinois with new Legislature

(The Center Square) – Some Illinois state lawmakers could set their sights on regulating social media companies in the new legislative term as other state’s consider allowing lawsuits over alleged user censorship.

In North Dakota, a state lawmaker filed a measure to allow for social media companies to be sued by a citizen if that citizen is censored.

“If Big Tech doesn’t follow their terms of service and they are banning one particular political party … and they censor outside the scope of [federal statute] Section 230, then there’s this civil liability,” State Rep. Tom Kading, R-N.D., told Fox News about his proposal.

He said when social media companies censor users, it could make the division even worse.

“All it really does is make those who have been silenced dig in deeper and be more suspicious of what’s going on,” Kading said.

Without seeing the specifics of the North Dakota legislation, Illinois state Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, said it’s worth looking at how social media companies handle free speech.

“It’s supposed to be and how it was sold to the public was an open platform of ideas and what we’ve seen with Twitter and Facebook and others is they’re stepping in and they’re picking winners and losers and I can’t imagine states want to allow that,” Chesney said.

Twitter has blocked President Donald Trump and other prominent figures from the platform. Other social media networks are limiting certain posts, groups and other user interactions.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, hadn’t seen the North Dakota bill and raised concern that such platforms weren’t being used to amplify extremist and violent rhetoric. But he also said without federal action, states may have to step in.

“Making sure that this isn’t just a sort of unregulated wild west where the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook are the people who are making the decisions about public policy, government needs to step in and figure out some oversight,” Guzzardi said.

Whether such a state law like what’s proposed in North Dakota could even stand is unclear as some say it could run afoul with a federal code granting certain immunity to internet technology companies.

Guzzardi said state policy can have a bearing on global tech companies.

“Where one state legislating something can make companies comply for the whole country because that state has a big enough market that companies want to comply and I think Illinois can really be a leader on regulating some of these platforms,” Guzzardi said.

Facebook will soon pay out hundreds of dollars to Illinoisans impacted by their violation of the state’s biometric privacy laws, laws that other states do not have in place.

Chesney said “if you don’t like a particular social network’s rules, use a different one.”

“I understand people are going to say that, but they have monopolies on a lot of this communication as well, so I mean this needs to be looked at on the federal level,” Chesney said. “I think the state can play some role as well.”

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