As a National Debate Rages, North Dakota Bill Would Make Internet Companies Legally Liable for Censorship

MINOT, N.D. — Our national headlines are now filled with news that the tech industry — including giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Twitter — has it out for disgraced President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Hundreds of thousands of users, including Trump himself, have been banned from the platforms. Groups promoting pro-Trump rhetoric, often including conspiracy theories and calls to violence, have been blocked. Hosting companies are taking down pro-Trump sites. Retail service companies are refusing to sell Trump products.

Even an entire social media platform — Parler, a Twitter-like service which became popular with the Trump crowd with promises of unfettered speech — has been taken down.

This has all happened in the context of last week’s violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building inspired by Trump and his followers, and a long-standing debate over broad immunities against liability granted to the tech industry for content posted by users. The so-called Section 230 protections have become a target for politicians, mostly Republicans, who feel social media platforms have been something less than ideologically even-handed in their approach to regulating political speech.

This brings us to HB 1144, a bill before the Legislature in Bismarck this session that would make “interactive computer services” — defined as “any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server” — civilly liable.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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