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Committee advances online freedom of speech bill

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that seeks to prohibit some large social media platforms from blocking a user in Alabama or deleting the opinions or information they share.

Senate Bill 10 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, says if a “major interactive computer service” doing business in Alabama does discriminate against users based on what they share, it “shall forfeit to the affected user $100,000 for each offense, and an additional $100,000 for each day of the continuance of the offense.”

After a public hearing and about 20 minutes of discussion, the committee voted 5-3, with one abstention, to move the bill to the full Senate.

Supporters say the bill protects the freedom of speech of the people of Alabama online but doesn’t protect unconstitutional speech, defamation or obscenity.

Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, raised concerns that the bill would affect Facebook, which has a data center in Huntsville, but not other large social media platforms that don’t have a physical presence in Alabama.

“I don’t want to punish businesses that have invested in Alabama … but let Twitter off the hook,” Givhan said.

Several Democrats on the committee spoke and voted against the bill, saying it would lead to legal challenges.

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