“If you decide you want to censor Iowans, then you forgo your special tax breaks. And they are rich tax breaks in this state,” warned Iowa Republican Sen. Jake Chapman during debate on a bill which would halt financial incentives for big tech companies that “censor” speech.
The bill, which was met with significant opposition during a recent subcommittee meeting while companies like Amazon and Facebook are currently generating thousands of jobs in the state, passed through the Senate Commerce Committee today along party lines.
Democrats say the legislation would be economically devastating.
“This business-busting bill has turned Iowa into a four-letter word. And it effectively puts a closed for business sign on Iowa,” said Hiawatha Democrat Sen. Liz Mathis.
“This could affect the huge Facebook property in Altoona, Google in Council Bluffs, Apple’s plans in Waukee for a data center, Microsoft in West Des Moines and Amazon in Bondurant. It would interrupt this business and agreements worth millions and millions and millions of dollars, thousands of jobs and any future prospects.”
Under the bill, any Iowan could make a complaint to the Iowa Attorney General if they feel they’d been censored on a platform. If the court rules the citizen’s speech was protected, technology companies could no longer reap financial rewards or tax credits from the state for 20 years, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2001.
Tech companies also could not prevent the state’s residents from downloading their apps or purchasing merchandise on online marketplaces, among other measures.
But Chapman, the lead sponsor of the bill with 29 other co-sponsors, said he wouldn’t put a price on his right to free speech. The senator said he’s willing to risk economic repercussions for unfettered conservative speech.
“So we’ve heard the economic argument. Hey, we’re gonna lose business. They’re gonna leave the state. Are we going to go to an auction block and auction away our rights? How much? How much are you willing to sell your freedoms, your liberties for?” Chapman asked. “How much is it? Maybe there’s a number, but for me, I’m not willing to compromise on it.”
The senator before noted that the legislation was created in response to companies like Facebook and Twitter’s removal of former President Donald Trump’s accounts following his incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“Sadly, the reality is, if they can censor the President of the United States of America, they can censor any one of us. And they’re doing it,” Chapman said.
Mathis made the argument that big tech companies are not the government, therefore not subject to the review of the first amendment.
“No one is forcing us to go on social media. We are all free to take our comments to the steps of the capitol, or to the real town square if we please. And the first amendment, let alone the spirit of the first amendment, doesn’t protect communication that amounts to a conspiracy to commit a crime and certainly not murder.”
by Isabella Murray
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