Harrisburg, Pa. – Social media sites that censor free speech could face civil penalties under a Senate bill introduced on Thursday.
Senate Bill 604 would make social media censorship a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. The law would only apply to social media websites with more than 75 million subscribers.
Under the measure, users whose content is purposely deleted or disfavored via a social media site's algorithm could sue for damages, including statutory damages up to $75,000.
The bill would fine a social media company $100,000 per day if found to be censoring a political candidate for statewide office. The company would be required to disclose their algorithmic bias for or against a political candidate as a campaign contribution.
Hate speech would be protected from social media censorship under S.B. 604.
"A social media website may not use the social media website user's alleged hate speech as a basis for justification or defense of the social media website's actions at trial," the bill states.
"Our hope is that this measure will hold social media companies accountable to the standard and spirit of free speech that our society depends on," Sens. Doug Mastriano and Scott Hutchinson said in the bill's memo.
In addition to Mastriano and Hutchinson, the bill is sponsored by Republican Sens. Joe Pittman, Mario Scavello and Patrick Stefano.
It was referred to the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.