The full Senate has approved legislation by Sen. Rob Standridge allowing social media users to sue for damages against any social media website that censors a user’s political or religious speech. Standridge, R-Norman, authored Senate Bill 383 to eliminate selective censorship of opinion on social media and to ensure free speech is treated fairly.
Social media sites are owned by private companies and thus are not subject to the federal Constitution’s guarantees of citizens’ speech not being censored. This law would force them to allow government to control what they choose to display on their platforms.
“Oklahomans throughout the state are fed up with liberal, multi-billion dollar tech companies trying to promote their ideology by censoring and deleting posts supporting conservative views,” Standridge said. “The free exchange of ideas is being suppressed, and it flies in the face of our right to free speech. Citizens should be able to have an opportunity to pursue civil recourse.”
Under SB 383, users in the state could sue any owner or operator of a social media website that purposely censors a user’s political or religious speech. The measure applies to deleted posts or the use of algorithms to suppress such speech. The websites would be immune from liability if any censored posts called for immediate acts of violence or enticed criminal conduct. It would also exempt posts involved in bullying minors, false impersonation or those from an inauthentic source. The measure does not apply to individual users who censor the speech of other users.
Users above the age 18 could 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.
SB 383 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, is principal House author of the bill.
The bill, if it becomes law, is unlikely to pass constitutional muster in the courts.