Wyoming Bill Aimed At Internet Viewpoint Discrimination Defeated In Committee
A bill that would have taken aim against discrimination against viewpoints on politics, race, religion, and other topics by internet service providers and social media platforms was defeated on Monday in the Wyoming House Judiciary Committee by a 6-3 vote.
In committee on Monday, Rep. Mike Yin [D-Teton County] questioned how companies would handle obvious calls to violence if the bill we enacted. ''How does an internet service provider or interactive computer service decide what is considered incitement to violence?" He went on to say "I think in this legislation you either make them judge and jury, or they don't know what is or isn't protected and then they have to go to a court every single time that happens."
The bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Cheri Steinmetz [R-Goshen, Weston, Niobrara counties] responded that the legislation is "contemplating them being a common carrier, rather than a gatekeeper of content that is not illegal." Steinmetz said there is already a lot of laws and case law on illegal speech. ''Rather than them making up their own laws and deciding whose right or wrong." she said it would be very similar to a situation where someone called for violent acts over the phone "and the police could come and supoena your telephone records" to prosecute the crime.
Attorney Harriet Hageman told the committee that companies could still remove content such as child pornography, calls for violence, and similar content which is already illegal. ''This doesn't change that" she told the committee. But she said it would aim to protect viewpoints such as claims that there were election irregularities in the 2020 election "based upon viewpoint."
But committee members raised concerns about whether Facebook or Amazon might simply decide to stop serving Wyoming if the bill became law, noting that Facebook, for example, is not available in China. Questions were also raised about whether government regulation of private companies such as Facebook or Twitter does not go against the concept of freedom of speech.
When the vote was taken, Reps. Crago, Washut and Martinez-Williams voted for the measure. The remaining committee members--Reps. Zwonizter, Olsen, Larsen, Oakely, Yin, and Provenza--voted against the bill.