Kansas lawmakers introduce bills to bar social media censorship

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Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 9:58 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Lawmakers in Kansas have introduced two bills that would bar censorship on social media as allowed in their terms of service and allow Kansans an avenue to seek damages.

On Monday, Jan. 9, Senator Mark Steffen (R-Hutchinson) introduced Senate Bill 1 to prohibit internet social media terms of service that allow censorship of speech. It would also allow legislators to make violations subject to fines under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

In other words, the bill would nullify terms of service with social media platforms that allow the restriction, censorship or suppression of information. Kansans who do come across a site that requires terms of service that include censorship would be able to report the company to the Attorney General under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

The legislation would authorize fines for companies that violate the law of between $500 and $10,000 for each violation. Kansans could also seek private action against the service that would include statutory damages of no less than $75,000 for each instance, actual damages, punitive damages and other equitable relief.

SB 1 was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Jan. 10 and on the 11th it was withdrawn from the committee and referred to the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs where it remains in discussion.

On Wednesday, Sen. Steffen joined Alicia Straub (R-Ellinwood) and Mike Thompson (R-Shawnee) to introduce Senate Bill 50. This piece of legislation would also prohibit internet social media terms of service that allow censorship.

The bill reads very similarly to SB 1, however, the censorship of political information and expression are included in the language of SB 50.

This legislation would allow Kansans to bring up actions against sites that do so with no proof of a consumer transaction required. Statutory penalties of no less than $75,000 would also be included in the penalties.

SB 50 was referred tot he Committee on Federal and State Affairs on Jan. 19 where it awaits discussion.