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Democrats receive pushback over social media censorship bill proposals

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House Democrats called for the introduction of legislation that would allow users to sue platforms for “emotional injury.” Critics warned that such a law would result in more censorship.

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee discussed several pieces of legislation that would result in amendments to Section 230 (the law that protects online platforms from liability for content posted by users).

One of the proposals was the “Justice Against Malicious Algorithm Act.” The law would enable social media users to sue companies for causing “severe emotional injury.” However, the law does not define so-called emotional injury.

Rashad Robinson, the head of an advocacy group, was one of the people who testified in the hearing. He said free speech should be restricted to fight “misinformation.”

Robinson said that Congress should put legislative limits on the First Amendment rights, arguing that: “I understand that we have these conversations about the First Amendment, but there are limitations to what you can and cannot say.”

Democratic representatives agreed with the idea of limiting free speech to fight misinformation. Most of them said that online platforms should be forced to “deamplify” objectionable content.

One Democratic panelist said that free speech does not translate to “freedom of reach.” Another said that “lies are not free speech.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers warned that the “Justice Against Malicious Algorithm Act” was a “a thinly veiled attempt to pressure companies to censor more speech.”

She added that if “companies will have to decide between leaving up content that may offend someone and fight it in court, or censor content that reaches a user—which do you think they’ll choose?”

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