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New Michigan bill would ban social media sites from 'de-platforming' users

A woman uses social media in this undated file photo. (File/WWMT){p}{/p}
A woman uses social media in this undated file photo. (File/WWMT)

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LANSING, Mich., -- A new bill in Michigan's Legislature would question the authority of social media companies to remove users from sites.

A committee hearing was set to be held on HB 5973 Wednesday, a day after Elon Musk said he would allow former President Donald Trump to return on Twitter, as the billionaire prepares to buy the social media platform. Trump was removed from Twitter and other social media sites last year after he communicated with Jan. 6 rioters, telling them he "loved" them, via Twitter as they attacked the U.S. Capitol.

The sponsor of HB 5973, known as the "Social Media Censorship Prevention Act," Rep. Ryan Berman says he wants to empower Michiganders to the right to free speech as they face large companies.

The bipartisan bill would ban companies from "de-platforming," or permanently kicking users off of their sites.

Berman, R-Commerce Township, says he believes the issue is about "straight-up freedom of speech."

“I may not agree with what you have to say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it, that Voltairian principle. That’s what I subscribe to, I believe in,” he said.

Berman acknowledged disinformation and misinformation can be spread on social media, but said he believed truth was the best way to combat it.

“As long as any type of speech or content isn’t illegal or gets violent or anything like that, it shouldn’t be censored, you shouldn’t be de-platformed,” said Berman.

Berman, an attorney, says if the bill became law it could give Michiganders standing for legal action against social media companies that kick them off the platform.

Social media companies have defended their rights to remove people who cause problems from their platforms.

In Trump's case, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey said it was a "business decision" to remove the sitting president, but said he believed it should not have been.

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Berman's bill is expected to receive a hearing in committee next week after Wednesday's hearing was canceled.

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