TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Bob Auth introduced the Stop Social Media Censorship Act, creating a private right of action for social media users whose political or religious speech has been deleted or censored by social media platforms. The bill will also affect those who have been disfavored or censured by a social media’s algorithm.
“Users of social media should feel comfortable to post political or religious speech without the fear of censorship,” said Auth (R-Bergen). “Social networking platforms should not allow their algorithms to unfairly show bias and should be held accountable. It’s unfair to censor certain social media consumers for their beliefs while continuing to profit off their information.”
According to reports, social networks are not only profiting from advertising, but also from selling personal information. Under Auth’s bill, a person may be awarded a minimum of $75,000 in statutory damages per purposeful deletion or censoring of their political or religious content. A consumer may also be awarded actual damages, punitive damages and any other form of relief as determined by a court.
The bill provides the prevailing party may be awarded costs and reasonable attorney fees. The court or jury is required to consider evidence the owner or operator of a social media platform restored any censored content in a reasonable time when determining damages sought by a user. A court may not consider evidence of a user’s alleged hate speech on the social media as a basis for justification or defense of the social media website’s actions.
“I understand there are standards social media try to uphold, but when the censorship is targeting specific populations for posting content they don’t want to promote, we have a serious dilemma which needs immediate attention,” said Auth. “It should concern everyone, not those just personally affected, that these networks are quick to devalue free speech while monetizing our private information.”
The attorney general may bring a civil cause of action on behalf of a user whose political or religious speech has been censored under certain circumstances provided in the bill.