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Kan. GOP promotes effort to preserve political expression on social media

Steve Delbianco, president and CEO of NetChoice, noted similar efforts are already being shot down, like in Utah. The bill would violate First Amendment rights, he said. (Screen capture of Kansas Legislature YouTube by Kansas Reflector)

However, these efforts are already hitting roadblocks. On Tuesday, a similar bill was vetoed when it arrived at the desk of Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. Cox too expressed frustration, but like tech advocates who testified in Kansas Wednesday, he was unsure this bill would stand up against legal challenges.

Steve Delbianco, president and CEO of NetChoice, an internet free speech advocacy and lobbying group, described himself as a lifelong conservative. NetChoice members include companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Delbianco recalled going door-to-door campaigning for Richard Nixon in a time when communicating across a broad spectrum of independent and moderate individuals through technology like social media was impossible. That is why a bill he said would alienate people who identify as moderate was so alarming to him.

While Delbianco said he too was frustrated by what he felt was unequal management of content by social media, but the issue with the measure boils down to a violation of First Amendment rights.

“The First Amendment prohibits government from compelling people or newspapers or social media to carry speech that they don’t want to display,” Delbianco said. “So if SB 187 will likely be enjoined and overturned on First Amendment grounds, what happens next? All you’ll have done is to encourage moderators by confirming that state governments cannot violate the First Amendment.”

Instead, Delbianco urged those who are frustrated to use other, conservative-oriented social media platforms to vent while maintaining a “town hall voice” on widely used platforms like Twitter.