DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Senate Republicans led by Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, introduced a bill that would prohibit the state and political subdivisions from entering into contracts or provide tax credits to tech companies that engage in censorship.
SF 402 creates a new section in Iowa Code that provides a reporting and enforcement mechanism. The law prohibits tech companies from engaging in censorship of constitutionally protected speech, with several exceptions. It also prohibits tech companies from preventing Iowans from downloading a social networking site in their application store and requires them to give Iowans the opportunity to opt-out of post-promoting and shadow-banning algorithms.
Companies that are found to violate the law by a “preponderance of the evidence” under the bill are prohibited from entering into a contract or receiving a tax credit or subsidy for 20 years. Companies that make changes to comply with the law can apply for a stay after four years, but they will be permanently restricted if found in violation again.
Political subdivisions such as cities, counties, and school districts that violate the could see a ten percent reduction in the tax revenue certified back to that political subdivision by the Iowa Department of Management if a court finds they entered into a contract or provided tax credits or subsidies to companies in violation with the law.
The bill requires the Attorney General to enforce the law and appeal decisions lost at the district court level. The bill also gives citizens the ability to sue tech companies in violation of the law.
“The ability of Americans and Iowans to voice their opinions is foundational, and I would argue is the very cornerstone of our great Republic,” Chapman said at a press conference on Thursday. “The ability to speak freely was so important that our founders enshrine this right in the First Amendment of the Constitution. While some would argue that the political divides could not be greater in this moment of history, this is the time, more than ever, that we need to protect speech, not silence it.”
He noted that there had been a coordinated effort by tech companies to silence free speech.
“They’re using their unfettered power to restrict, modify, or even remove Americans and Iowans’ ability to have their voices heard. The reality is, these social media platforms have become the public square of the 21st century. Big tech is being shielded by an antiquated law, known as Section 230 of the United States Code. This code provision provides liability immunity from civil action by American citizens. And sadly, it appears Congress is unwilling to provide the necessary protections to our First Amendment from this unprecedented overreach by big tech,” Chapman added.
Chapman also announced that a companion bill would be filed by State Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, the Iowa House Judiciary Committee chair.
Twenty-nine Republican state senators co-signed the bill, minus Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, who does not sponsor or co-sponsor legislation. State Senator Zach Nunn, R-Altoona, who is absent from this session on military duty, tweeted his support on Thursday afternoon.
“The legislation introduced will send a strong message that Iowans will no longer foot the bill for tech big tech censorship in our state. Under our proposal, big tech will be required to recognize the rights of our citizens,” Chapman stated.
“My hope is that the feckless disregard of individual rights we see coming out of the California Silicon Valley will promptly end today. The General Assembly will begin the process to send a clear and concise message that Iowans won’t be silenced,” he said.
Chapman told reporters that Apple alone receives over $200 million in tax breaks in Iowa. Facebook has data centers in Altoona, and they currently do not pay property tax.
“I would also further note that these big tech companies are some of our largest energy consumers. And yet, they don’t pay any tax on the energy consumption that they are utilizing. This bill will force them to start paying taxes if they choose. The option is always theirs. They are in the driver’s seat when it comes to this issue. Again, they can choose to respect the freedom of thought and opinion, or they can forego their special tax breaks here in this state,” he said.
Read the bill below:SF402