OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill that would provide Oklahomans legal recourse if a social media platform unfairly targets them over their political or religious speech has passed a Senate committee.
State Senator Rob Standridge (R-Norman), who filed Senate Bill 383, said the bill’s aim is to ensure the fair treatment of political and religious speech.
“I’ve had constituents tell me they’ve had their social media posts censored for reasons that are strictly political, aimed at shutting down conservative views,” Standridge said. “I think when that’s the case, those citizens should be able to take action against those companies.”
If the bill passes, Oklahomans can sue the owner or operator of a social media website if the website purposefully deletes or censors a user’s political or religious speech, or uses an algorithm to suppress such speech.
“Users would be able to seek damages of a minimum of $75,000 per intentional deletion or censoring of that user’s speech, along with actual damages and punitive damages if aggravating factors are present. The prevailing party may also be awarded costs and reasonable attorney fees,” the news release states.
The bill does not apply to posts that call for immediate acts of violence or entice criminal conduct, as well as posts that were the result of operational error.
The legislation would also exempt posts that come from “an inauthentic source or involved false impersonation or involved minors bullying minors.”
The bill states that a website would not be considered liable for an individual user’s censoring of another user’s speech.
“We’ve seen what appears to be selective censoring of opinion on social media. The legislation clearly states violent or other unacceptable content can and should be censored and violators removed if necessary, but any censorship should be applied equally to all,” Standridge said. “I believe in free speech, and the protection of free political speech is vital to the preservation of our democracy.”
On Tuesday, Senate Bill 383 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor.