Rep. Powers To Re-Introduce Bill To Combat Big Tech Censorship Of Tennessee Citizens

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

Representative Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro-District 36) plans to reintroduce his Social Media Common Carrier bill for the 113th Tennessee General Assembly with hopes that it will pass this time around.

Powers believes social media is the town square of our time and that social media companies are common carriers, just like a phone company or hotel chain, and they should not discriminate based upon political ideology.

Rep. Powers told the Tennessee Conservative, “Conservatives have long been censored by Big Tech and now more evidence has become apparent when companies have admitted working in conjunction with government organizations to censor information that may hurt political candidates in elections.  This is a problem that Congress needs to solve because it has interstate commerce implications, but although they talk about revising Section 230, nothing has been done, so the states have to address the issue.  Our solution will not prevent the issue, but it will give the victims cause for action and will hopefully, make Big Tech think twice before censoring Conservatives and also show Congress that it needs to step in and fight for our First Amendment Rights.”

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Powers’ bill, although not yet re-introduced for the 113th General Assembly upon publication of this article, was designated as House Bill 2369 (HB2369) in the last session.

The bill’s summary reads as follows:

House Bill 2369 seeks to designate social media platforms (SMPs) as common carriers and requires the entities to obtain certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Tennessee public utilities commission; establishes that SMPs may not intentionally deplatform or shadow ban a user of the SMP based on various factors. Authorizes TPUC to investigate suspected violations and conduct contested case hearings. Prescribes penalties and fines that TPUC may issue for violations. Upon a finding of a violation after a contested case hearing, a user is authorized to bring a private cause of action and may be awarded various damages, costs, and fees. 

The General Assembly website has apparently purged public access to bills from previous sessions, however, legislation information can still be found on legiscan.com.

HB2369 managed to pass in the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee, and the Commerce Committee but was then “placed behind the budget” in the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee on March 30th and eventually taken off notice on April 26th of this year.

In contrast, the legislature approved $500 million in bonds for a new Tennessee Titans stadium as part of a record $52.8 billion budget during the last session, a deal which will require $55 million in annual payments. However, Powers’ bill to help protect Tennessean’s First Amendment rights that came with a price tag of $100,000 was deemed too expensive and of less importance than millions in taxpayer dollars to fund a welfare program for billionaires.

Of note, Powers projected that the bill, if made law, would likely generate enough revenue through fees that it would pay for itself.

On the Senate side, Powers’ bill was sponsored by Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson-District 11) as SB2161.  The bill passed the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee but died after the legislation as a whole was placed behind the budget.

Rep. Powers has indicated to us that he will be running the bill again next year and Watson told us he would carry it on the Senate side.

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In preparation for this article, The Tennessee Conservative reached out to key members of the Tennessee Legislature to ask if they will support the legislation in the committee and budgeting process during the 113th General Assembly.

On the House side, Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville-District 14) said, “I will 100% support (the bill) just as I did last year.  I was a co-sponsor and worked with Dennis to pass the bill out of committee.  I actually had a similar bill drafted but deferred to Dennis as I felt his legislation was less complex.”

Rep. Zachary also serves on the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee.

On the Senate side, Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin-District 27), Republican Majority Leader told us, “I supported SB 2161 last year and will again support legislation that ensures Tennessee citizens are not censured on social media platforms for their political beliefs. I appreciate Senator Watson and Representative Powers’ work on this important legislation protecting free speech.”

Senator Johnson also serves on the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee and the Commerce and Labor Committee.

Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald-District 28) also indicated his support stating that he believes freedom of speech should not be prohibited.

Senator Hensley also serves on the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee as the 2nd Vice-Chair.

In addition to the above, The Tennessee Conservative also reached out to House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally along with all the members of the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee, the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee;  the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee and the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

None, but those quoted above, chose to comment prior to publication of this article.

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 Director 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

2 thoughts on “Rep. Powers To Re-Introduce Bill To Combat Big Tech Censorship Of Tennessee Citizens

  • November 30, 2022 at 10:52 pm
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    Wish those having Senators on the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee would contact them and pin them down on this bill.
    ANYone against it is TRASH!

    Reply
    • December 1, 2022 at 8:33 pm
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      The best demonstration of support at this time is for them to cosponsor the bill. That is more meaningful than casual comments of support. Cosponsorship puts their name in Nashville where they say they are in home district.

      Reply

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