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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: February 16, 2021 03:45 PM
From: Senator Doug Mastriano and Sen. Scott E. Hutchinson
To: All Senate members
Subject: Social Media Accountability Act
In the near future, we plan to introduce legislation that would further protect people’s speech from undue restriction and censorship.

Our legislation would mandate that social media companies inform their users – in writing – why their accounts were banned or disabled within 30 days and require those companies to offer users recourse to restore their account.

The Founding Fathers of the United States understood that free speech was the cornerstone of our Republic. Benjamin Franklin best summarized the importance of individual free speech in The New-England Courant, on July 9, 1722, under a ghost name of Silence Dogood, writing:

“This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech…”

In the Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin wrote:

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved.” 

George Washington wrote of this to his officers in the Continental Army on March 15, 1783.  

“For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.”

One of the most acclaimed playwrights and philosophers of Athens – Euripides – expressed the state of man, when unable to give voice to thought and opinion 2,400 years ago, saying, “This is slavery, not to speak one's thought.”   

Indeed, when freedom of speech is suppressed, then all freedom is vanquished. 

The insidious nature of the suppression of free speech was manifest painfully over the last century.  The rise of powerful socialist institutions in the Russian Empire (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), Germany (National Socialism) and then across Central Asia, Eastern/Central Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War are examples of the dangers associated with encroachments on freedom.  In many scenarios, the suppression of free speech began with the suspensions of it.  

Freedom of speech is fundamental for both individuals and a healthy, free society.  The tendency of Big Tech to limit or censor speech is gravely concerning.  They have elevated themselves as the sole arbiters of truth.  To think that we, as limited humans, have the omniscience or objectivity to determine the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is at best naïve and at worst arrogant.  

The best we can do is to hope that we all have some piece of the truth that we share with others in the public commons to hopefully knit together some semblance of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Our hope is that this measure will hold social media companies accountable to the standard and spirit of free speech that our society depends on. 

If you have any questions regarding the legislation, feel free to contact Doug Zubeck in my office at 717-787-4651 or dzubeck@pasen.gov, or Nathan in Senator Hutchinson’s office at 717-787-9684 or nakers@pasen.gov.

Introduced as SB604