A northeast Ohio Republican wants to curb the power of social media companies to determine who gets to post on their platforms.
Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Youngstown, announced plans to introduce a bill that would make it illegal for companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to remove user posts or accounts unless their content violated a state or federal law.
Violators could face civil suits for "reasonable attorney’s fees and investigative costs" brought by Ohio's Attorney General.
"Simply put, this is a protection of our First Amendment rights," Cutrona said. "Big tech companies are not like every other business. They're a monopoly. They control the whole arena."
Facebook and Twitter removed former President Donald Trump from their platforms after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Google and Apple banned Parler, a social media app popular with conservatives. And locally, Twitter temporarily restricted U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel's account back in March.
But what Cutrona and other Republicans see as censorship, Democrats call stopping the spread of misinformation.
“The power of this technology is awesome and terrifying, and each of you has failed to protect your users and the world from the worst consequences of your creations,” U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., said during an April hearing with the chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter.
The major social media companies have all stepped up their monitoring of the content posted on their platforms in recent years.
Facebook recently announced it took down more than 20 million pieces of misinformation about COVID-19. And Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that his company bore some responsibility for the spread of misinformation that contributed to the Capitol riot.
Conservatives like Cutrona, however, say all that "fact-checking" has been one-sided.
"They are picking the winners and losers," Cutrona said. "You cannot have a free society where people can't express their opinions."
He'd like to see big tech companies regulated like public utilities (water, electric, phone).
This isn't like choosing where you buy groceries or home supplies, Cutrona said. There aren't strong alternatives to Facebook – especially for people running for office who are looking to connect with their constituents.
Florida Republicans passed a bill back in April that banned the "deplatforming" of politicians. A bill in Texas would apply to all residents, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a version at the federal level.
As for Ohio, Cutrona hopes to collect co-sponsors and get his bill to its first hearing as soon as possible.