***Update 2/10/22 – House Bill 2369 has been assigned to the House Business & Utilities Subcommittee. SB2161 was passed on first and second consideration and referred to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Representative Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro-District 36) has introduced a bill that seeks to designate social media platforms as common carriers and prescribe fines for deplatforming and shadow-banning users based on political ideologies, viewpoints, or personal animus.
The original version of this bill, HB1771, was introduced on 1/19/22 but was then withdrawn on 1/31/22. The House bill was replaced with a new version on 2/1/22 and gained a new Senate companion bill.
A summary of HB1771 stated “As introduced, designates social media platforms as common carriers and requires the entities to obtain certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Tennessee public utilities commission; prescribes fines against social media platforms that deplatform and shadow ban users based on political ideology, viewpoint, or personal animus. – Amends TCA Title 4; Title 47 and Title 65.”
The new bill that takes the place of the original bill has the designation “HB2369“.
House Bill 2369’s summary states, “As introduced, designates social media platforms as common carriers and requires the entities to obtain certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Tennessee public utilities commission; prescribes fines against social media platforms that deplatform and shadow ban users based on political ideology, viewpoint, or personal animus, or discrimination based on race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin. – Amends TCA Title 4; Title 47 and Title 65.
The summary of HB2369 has expanded the scope of HB1771 by adding the language “or discrimination based on race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin.”
With the new designation and the addition of this language, the proposed legislation has gained a Senate Companion bill (SB2161) sponsored by Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson).
Section 3 of the new bills state, in part, that an operator of a social media platform authorizing users located in Tennessee to post content or material on the platform shall, on or before January 1, 2023, and for each year thereafter, obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity as a social media common carrier.
Section 4 states, in part, that a social media platform shall not willfully deplatform or shadow ban a user of the social media platform if the basis of such action is rooted in political ideology, viewpoint discrimination, or personal animus, or discrimination based on race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin.
Like the previous version of this legislation, if this bill passes, the new law would not apply to the 2022 midterm elections in Tennessee based on the effective date of January 1, 2023. However, if passed into law, it would offer protections for 2024’s Presidential election.
With both Texas and Florida’s social media legislation currently being blocked by the court system, it stands to reason that Conservative Tennessee legislators have studied the other state’s social media bills in an effort to avoid the same pitfalls.
On the Tennessee House side, several Republicans stated that they are in support of such legislation including Representatives John Ragan (Oak Ridge – District 33) , Bruce Griffey (Paris – District 75), and Dan Howell (Cleveland – District 22).
Representative Griffey told the Tennessee Conservative that classifying social media platforms as “common carriers” seems like a good choice when reviewing the Texas and Florida laws and the legal challenges that followed their issuance.
“This approach seems the most logical and Justice Thomas has indicated as much,” Griffey said.
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Some Republican Tennessee Senate members have acknowledged a need for such legislation and have voiced some support as well.
Specifically, Senators Kerry Roberts (Springfield – District 25) and Shane Reeves (Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore and parts of Rutherford County – District 14) have voiced support.
Senator Reeves told the Tennessee Conservative, “If we do not do something about this, our presidential candidate will be crippled in the race – and they are already moving down-ballot (not to mention the effect it has on content censorship, which is equivalent in many cases to candidate censorship).”
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has even acknowledged that social media censorship is a problem.
“While the rights of private business should always be protected, certain Big Tech corporations have acted in bad faith by discriminating against conservatives. The First Amendment only protects citizens from government action but that does not mean that these companies should be able to declare open season on conservatives,” McNally said.
Brandon Lewis, founder of The Tennessee Conservative, said “Social Media is an essential tool in modern-day elections. If Republicans allow Democrats and Leftists to control this media, we’ll be hamstrung in ALL upcoming elections.”
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com