Republicans target non-existent “liberal bias” in social media

A bill heard this week in the Senate’s Civil Law Committee would prohibit “interactive computer services”, or social media companies, from restricting directly, manually, or through the use of an algorithm a user’s account or content based on race, sex, political ideology, or religious beliefs. Individuals who are blocked for these reasons or who are not given proper notice of being blocked would be able to sue the social media companies.

The bill is a response to conservatives’ belief in a “liberal bias” in social media companies, and the banning of Donald Trump and other well-known Republicans from Twitter after the attempted coup in January. Many conservatives also believe that companies such as Facebook and Twitter used algorithms and censoring to limit information about the election that would’ve made a difference in the outcome.

Despite these claims, a 2020 POLITICO analysis “showed that right-wing social media influencers, conservative media outlets, and other Republican supporters dominate online discussions around two of the 2020 election’s biggest issues, the Black Lives Matter movement and election fraud. Users shared the most-viral right-wing social media content more than 10 times as often as the most popular liberal posts in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. People also shared conservatives’ most-read claims of rampant voter fraud roughly twice as often as they did liberal’s or traditional media outlets’ discussion of the issue.”

Social media companies are private companies that have terms of service agreements for using them. This includes a responsibilty in ensuring content isn’t in support of white supremacy, racism, or sexism, that it doesn’t discriminate against minorities or our most vulnerable, and that it doesn’t perpetuate false information that questions a fair and free election and leads to insurrection. This bill would strongly hinder these companies’ ability to do so.

Senate DFLers will continue to fight for bills that protect free speech and ensure everyone’s ability to participate in the political process, which includes increasing access to our elections system. A bill that would do just that, the “Democracy for the People” Act, has been refused a hearing by Senate Republicans. (SF 1253, SF 422)