Wisconsin Republicans Aim to Protect Free Speech with Pitch for Online Anti-Censorship Legislation

Shae Sortwell and Roger Roth
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On Wednesday, Wisconsin State Representative Shae Sortwell (R-WI-02) and State Senator Roger Roth (R-WI) introduced three pieces of legislation aimed to protect free speech rights of Wisconsinites on social media.

The Republicans’ plans include:

  • LRB 2090, which provides a civil cause of action for any Wisconsin resident against a social media company who censors, shadow-bans, or otherwise alters a user’s speech on social media sites.
  • LRB 3211, which protects the ability of journalistic outlets to publish their materials on social media by creating a cause of action for journalistic outlets to push back on social media giants’ censorship of their publications.
  • LRB 4301, which implements a penalty structure for government officials in Wisconsin who choose to engage in unethical conduct in direct violation of the First Amendment’s principles. 

In a press release regarding the legislation, Representative Shae Sortwell said:

Big Tech has long been violating people’s free speech rights through deleting, censoring, and shadow-banning because they disagree with what is posted or who is posting it. And now, Big Tech is colluding with President Biden to suppress free speech and push his agenda. Government cannot simply bypass their Constitutional restrictions by having businesses do their dirty work for them.

Senator Roth and I will hold them accountable with our package of three bills and will work to protect that First Amendment liberty of every person in the great State of Wisconsin. We expect this kind of suppression in China, but it is disturbing that we have allowed it to occur in America, the Land of the Free.

However, the pair’s plan may face tough hurdles as similar legislation in Florida has in the past. 

Earlier this year, a federal judge blocked a Florida law that was created to hold social media companies accountable for banning political candidates. In the Florida case, the judge argued that such legislation would violate the First Amendment rights of social media companies. 

The topic of social media censorship heated up earlier this year when then-President Donald Trump was banned from using media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Since then, many lawmakers and everyday Americans have demanded clarification on the rights of big tech platforms. 

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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network
Photo “Shae Sortwell” by Representative Shae Sortwell and photo “Roger Roth” by State Senator Roger Roth.

 

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