Iowa Republicans are willing to take a hit on the state’s economic development in order to welcome former President Donald Trump with lenient first amendment privileges during a time when few places are offering to be his safe haven.
Big tech companies like Facebook, Apple and Google will no longer enjoy the tax breaks and incentives Iowa has offered if they censor speech— namely, conservative speech on social media—according to an Iowa bill making its way through the legislature.
But Republican Sen. Jake Chapman indicated after the bill’s House subcommittee on Wednesday that the legislation might have motives other than safeguarding Iowa’s conservative voices—he offered the state up as a new home for Trump, who has seen mass removal from all mainline tech platforms following his incitement of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
“What would be incredible is if Donald Trump decided he wanted to move to Iowa and was the first case,” Chapman told the Des Moines Register Wednesday. “We’ll provide him far more protections than what other states have provided him.”
@DonaldJTrumpJr "What would be incredible is if Donald Trump decided he wanted to move to Iowa and was the first case," Chapman told the Des Moines Register Wednesday. "We'll provide him far more protections than what other states have provided him."https://t.co/QK5hYUvy3u
— Jake Chapman (@VoteJakeChapman) February 25, 2021
The bill, which prohibits large tech and social media companies from barring Iowans from “constitutionally protected speech” on their platforms, was authored by 30 of the Iowa Senate’s 32 Republicans.
Under the bill, tech companies also could not prevent the state’s residents from downloading their apps or purchasing merchandise on online marketplaces, among other measures.
Its House companion bill also advanced through a subcommittee on Wednesday. House Republicans also passed another bill on Thursday to penalize companies that censor online content through a subcommittee.
“We’ve got a hell of a problem here,” said Republican Rep. Jon Jacobsen at the Thursday subcommittee.
“I look at the deplatforming that’s going on simply because of differences of opinion. We’re coming up on almost 12 months of COVID, if you were an advocate of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, Zithromax therapy, you were either screened off, filmed off, constantly deplatformed.”
Jacobsen went on to say the censorship of hydroxychloroquine treatment endorsers was unjust because the treatment does indeed treat COVID—a statement that is not factual.
“Our federal government now, after the Jan. 20 miracle of predictable coincidences, said ‘Oh, yeah, hydroxychloroquine worked all the time.’ Well, we knew it. That suppression of a therapy that was used in my metro area by doctors in the trenches…this is the danger of a monopoly that has consumed the public square.”
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office would have to enforce these provisions by charging civil penalties of up to $100,000 for a violation, under this House bill.
A representative from the Attorney General’s Office said at the Thursday subcommittee meeting that the bill would create “considerable challenges if this goes into law.”
“There’s a potential for a lot of complaints coming into our office. There’s going to be a substantial impact on our office to respond to these complaints,” he said.
AG representatives and Iowa businesses in subcommittees on Wednesday warned that this legislation could cut dangerously close to the state’s contractual agreements with these powerful tech companies, along with harming long-term efforts to attract and retain the valuable workforce providers.
Under the Senate bill and its House companion, if a court found a company violated the prohibitions in the bill, the company would lose all contracts, benefits and agreements with governmental entities in Iowa for a 20-year period.
Big technology censorship has been a recurring talking point of the GOP since Trump and some of his allies have lost their spots on platforms due to violent and inciting rhetoric. Iowa is just one of several states that are looking at legislation to combat tech companies’ rights to silence misinformation.
by Isabella Murray
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