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Florida GOP Senator Pushes Social Media ‘Censorship’ Bill

The so-called "Stop Social Media Censorship Act" would make companies liable for damages in civil lawsuits if they delete or censure religious speech or political speech, or use an algorithm to "disfavor or censure" such speech.

Right wing provocateur and Florida congressional candidate Laura Loomer speaks Tuesday during a press conference touting legislation sponsored by state Sen. Joe Gruters, pictured in the yellow tie behind Loomer, that would crack down on alleged social media censorship [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Zac Anderson]
(TNS) — Joined by a right-wing provocateur who was kicked off Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, GOP state Sen. Joe Gruters called on Florida lawmakers Tuesday to pass legislation in 2020 aimed at stopping what he described as censorship by large social media companies.

Alleged censorship by big tech companies has become a major issue on the right, with conservative activists arguing that social media platforms are unfairly accusing them of hate speech and infringing on their free speech rights.

Gruters — who also chairs the Republican Party of Florida — filed SB 1266 to address the issue. Dubbed the "Stop Social Media Censorship Act," it would make companies liable for damages in civil lawsuits if they delete or censure religious speech or political speech, or use an algorithm to "disfavor or censure" such speech.

The legislation only applies to large social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook that have at least 75 million users.

"This isn't just a conservative issue," Gruters said Tuesday during a press conference in the Capitol rotunda. "This bill is to protect the speech of all Floridians and hopefully it paves the way for other lawmakers across the country."

Florida congressional candidate Laura Loomer stood near Gruters as he spoke. The lawmaker cited Loomer as a "major" inspiration for the bill and a "poster child for social media bias in banning."

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Loomer has sued Facebook and handcuffed herself to the front door of Twitter's headquarters in New York. She was banned from Twitter in 2018, an action she says the company took after she tweeted about then Minnesota Democratic U.S. Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar.

According to news reports, Loomer tweeted that Omar — who is Muslim — is "anti Jewish" and in favor of Sharia law, the Islamic religious law.

Loomer also was banned from Uber and Lyft after calling for "a non-Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver."

Facebook banned Loomer in 2019, along with Infowars founder Alex Jones, minister Louis Farrakhan and four other users accused of violating the company's policies regarding "dangerous individuals and organizations."

Loomer, 26, compared tech executives Tuesday to tyrannical British kings.

"Today it's me but tomorrow it could be any one of you if you post an opinion that tech tyrants disagree with," she said.

While the social media censorship issue has been a hot topic in conservative circles and is sure to be a GOP talking point during the 2020 election, it has yet to gain traction in the Florida Senate.

Gruters's bill has not received a committee hearing. The first committee that it is referred to — Innovation, Industry and Technology — was meeting as Gruters spoke Tuesday, but his bill was not on the agenda.

©2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.