Montana public service commissioner talks need to regulate social media

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 9:13 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Social media censorship has become a hot button issue across the nation, especially for conservatives.

Jordan Hall, who used Facebook for his online publication: The Montana Daily Gazette, says his reach has been limited due to content that did not meet the site’s community standards. He said he has lost revenue due to this and argues there needs to be a way to hold these companies accountable.

“I have a right to due process under the law, and there’s no court due to section 230 of federal law to challenge them in, unless states get their act together and create a means and mechanism by which their citizens can challenge big tech,” Hall said.

Montana Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci said the Public Service Commission should be allowed to regulate these companies. He said he feels regulation of these companies could be the future of the commission.

“(Social Media Companies) are a monopoly; there’s really only one Facebook, there’s really only one Twitter. They have tremendous power, and they can raise the rates and kick anyone off for any reason they want,” said Pinocci.

Pinocci reached out to state representative Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, and a constitutional scholar from Arizona to create a bill that Pinocci said would have protected the constitutional rights of Montanans. House Bill 573, introduced during the 2021 session, would have given the state’s public service commission power to fine companies up to one percent of their gross income if the commission finds the company responsible for discriminately removing content from their site.

“We thought that they would be a great arm’s length, arbitrary group that would take it out of the oversight of the attorney general, the legislature, or any other entity and it seemed like a very natural fit,” said Tschida.

The vote failed in the house by just one vote due to 18 republicans voting with democrats against the bill. Democratic state representative Katie Sullivan, D-Missoula, who heard the bill in committee, said in a statement that “Telling Private companies what they can and can’t do with the content on their own websites is just anti-business and unconstitutional. It also conflicts with federal law.”

Llew Jones, R-Conrad, said while social media censorship is a problem, he says he doesn’t believe the public service commission are up to enforcing the bill.

“I could not see at that time how they should even be considered as even sort of capable of doing this work. They’re not doing the work they were supposed to be doing already,” said Llew Jones.

While the bill failed this session, Pinocci says he feels there’s a good chance of a bill passing in the next session.

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