Tennessee Stands petitioned Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slattery to take legal action against social media censorship. The nonprofit social advocacy organization submitted the letter, authored by their legal representation, on Wednesday. The letter cited previous President Donald Trump’s executive order pertaining to online censorship, issued last May, as an example.
“Tennessee Stands respectfully asks that your office demonstrate similar courage in taking a national leadership role in the investigation and civil prosecution of companies like Facebook when their false advertising and viewpoint-based censorship and interruption of service of its members runs afoul of the protections afforded the citizens of our state,” stated the letter.
The letter also criticized Facebook’s use of fact-checkers, which it alleged weren’t independent or objective in reviewing posted material for factual accuracy. It accused Facebook of not upholding its own terms of service regarding the empowerment of free expression.
“[F]acebook and other social media platforms have broadened significantly their censorship and ban of certain types of otherwise legitimate expression, and have begun aggressively targeting citizens in Tennessee and across the country whose views are not seen by them as fitting within a presupposed, ideological orthodoxy,” read the letter. “Its targeting of these views and suspension or termination of member’s accounts based on controversial viewpoints expressed does not insulate Facebook from liability under the federal Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230, as well as the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-18-101[.]”
In an interview with The Tennessee Star, Founder and Executive Director Gary Humble shared that this issue with social media censorship is critical to protecting free speech.
“I think it is a key issue. It is a right secured by our First Amendment. I think our Attorney General has a duty to defend that right for all Tennesseans,” stated Humble. “We’ve been hoping for years there would be [more] federal action. We’re sort of asking Tennessee to take the lead here and say that something needs to be done and hope that others support it.”
Humble speculated that social media in its modern form functions similarly to a utility.
“I know for me, personally, I get all of my news from Twitter or Facebook. It’s in my news feed way before I see it on TV or anything else. It’s even major in the ways that we communicate with each other. I wonder if it’s time to start thinking about social media as a utility,” said Humble. “Could you imagine that a company is going to shut off your phone service because it disagrees with your political views? But, seemingly, we allow that for Big Tech. Which, I would argue, it’s providing the same services in 2021, the way that it’s been integrated into our lives. I think it’s a worthy conversation that we should be having.”
Tennessee’s attorney general has been engaged in other legal battles against Facebook recently. Last month, The Star reported that Slattery had joined 48 other attorneys to file a lawsuit against Facebook concerning antitrust practices.
Over the last few months, Tennessee Stands has made itself known as a force to be reckoned with – they are currently engaged in three lawsuits and instigated two pieces of legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly. The group also called for Knox County Board of Health to be stripped of its power to impose mandates; that same week, the Knox County Commission voted in favor of that action.
Tennessee Stands told The Star that it also plans to get heavily involved in 2022 elections across the state. So far, the organization has installed branches in Knoxville and the Tri-Cities area.
“We are forming true coalitions across the state,” stated Humble. “We intend to be very active in local elections in 2022. Local politics matters. Who’s sitting on your county commission and school board matters, and has everything to do with what your everyday life looks like. We’re going to be very focused on installing God-fearing, liberty-loving, Constitution-loving moms and dads and business owners and everyday people [in those local positions].”
Humble informed The Star that they haven’t received a response from the state’s attorney general yet.
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