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Tennessee social media bill faces legal obstacles similar to Florida, Texas

The vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, which successfully has been granted injunctions against similar laws in Florida and Texas on First Amendment grounds, said, however, the Tennessee companion bills (House Bill 2369 and Senate Bill 2161) not only violate the First Amendment but also would cost taxpayers for the added regulation and legal battle that would follow.

“What we’re seeing right now is lawmakers in the state of Tennessee following in the same failed legal footsteps of Florida and Texas,” NetChoice’s Carl Szabo said. “And it’s ultimately not going to get them where they want to be, which is to able to police the internet. Fortunately, our Founding Fathers created the First Amendment to expressly forbid and preclude this type of state-compelled speech.”

Szabo said in those cases, NetChoice is asking for attorney’s fees to be paid for by the states. He was at both Tennessee committee meetings last week and said he was not allowed to speak on the legislation. Szabo said the Heartland Institute, which has supported the legislation in all three states, also was not allowed to testify.

Szabo said he hoped Tennessee would listen and slow down rather than attempting to enact the legislation, but NetChoice was prepared to fight the legislation on First Amendment grounds in Tennessee, if necessary.

“Tennessee can choose to – it’s not even rolling the dice, they’re going to lose – or they can see what happens in the Florida and Texas lawsuits and then make a more informed decision without putting at risk the constitutional protections of their citizens and Tennesseans’ tax dollars and frivolous lawsuits,” Szabo said.

The Florida law defined social media sites as common carriers, an entity that delivers all that it receives, such as the United States Postal Service, Szabo said, and the court disagreed with that notion.

Szabo said legislating what private businesses can do is a slippery slope and conservatives, like himself, would be hurt more than anyone else if the government started controlling social media. He said impressions on social media for conservative websites are far higher than those for other political philosophies.