A new bill from GOP state officials in North Dakota could force Facebook and Twitter to face lawsuits from users whom they have censored. Some lawyers say the law would not work due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that allows Big Tech to have legal immunity in issues of censorship.
Ars Technica said that a bill that was submitted last week named “an Act to permit civil actions against social media websites for censoring freedom of speech,” states that companies with over 1 million active users would be “liable for civil actions for damages to any person whose speech is suppressed, censored or restrained, and to any individual who would have received the content of said speech.”
Compensation for these censored users could be “treble damages for compensatory damages.” Experts think the bill would likely not work as intended even if it is passed due to a conflict with federal law. Lawyer Akiva Cohen said on Twitter that the possible law “would instantly be said to be voided by Section 230,” because “federal law reigns over state law where there is a conflict.”
Section 230 is a law created in 1996 that says providers of digital services shall not be made liable for “any action to block access to or availability of material considered to be lewd, obscene, excessively violent, or in any other way objectionable, regardless of that material’s constitutional status.”
Because of this, tech companies that moderate user content are legally insulated. North Dakota Rep. Tom Kading (R) is the lead of the new law and has recently expressed his anger over the Facebook and Twitter suspensions of President Donald Trump, saying: “It’s wrong to block the President.”