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Social media bill likely to return, state Attorney General Rutledge says

by Doug Thompson | April 21, 2021 at 7:45 a.m.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge gives a press conference in this Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 file photo.

SPRINGDALE -- The Legislature is likely to reconsider her efforts to limit the ability of social media companies to police online comments, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Tuesday.

House Bill 1847 by Rep. Brian Evans, R-Cabot, fell a vote short of approval in the House Insurance and Commerce Committee on Monday. The bill would authorize the state Attorney General's Office to take legal action against social media companies under the state's Deceptive Trade Practices Act for deleting or restricting users' posts or labeling the content.

Arkansans need protection from censorship imposed by social media companies, Rutledge said as she took questions from reporters at a conference room in the Springdale Chamber of Commerce building.

Her office will see if amendments to the bill are needed to ensure its passage, Rutledge said. Opponents of the bill argued in Monday's hour-long committee debate the same First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing free speech to social media users also gives private companies the right to choose what content is allowed on their platforms.

Social media companies have faced accusations nationwide of bias in how they handle lies and misinformation.

Groups including the Arkansas Press Association and NetChoice -- a trade association whose members include Amazon, Google and TikTok -- have argued HB1647 is unconstitutional and would be struck down by the courts.

Rutledge, whose term ends in January 2023, is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2022, along with former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Print Headline: Social media bill likely to return, Rutledge says

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