Gubernatorial candidate Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) announced a plan Wednesday to hold Big Tech accountable for protecting free speech. The plan expands regulation and enforcement with transparency requirements, bans on de-platforming elected officials, and $100,000-per-day fines for violating tech companies.
In a press release, Cox said, “In recent years, Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter have become an extended version of Big Brother. They play a significant role in our elections, and the public deserves to know the truth about how they operate. They should not be allowed to arbitrarily pick sides and censor speech, and they must be held responsible when they deceive consumers or act egregiously.”
Cox said, “This trend has accelerated over the last few months with egregious actions by social media platforms, unfairly targeting conservatives. The silencing, the shaming, and the censorship are very real.”
Cox’s announcement comes just a month after Twitter permanently banned former President Trump. Facebook has temporarily blocked one of Cox’s fellow candidates for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield.)
Under Cox’s Big Tech plan, de-platforming “qualified candidates for elected office” would be banned. The plan includes openly published standards of censoring, de-platforming, and shadow banning. Cox called for a three-strike warning system before permanent bans against users and for the provision of remedial steps.
He also wants to expand the attorney general’s power to fight censorship and de-platforming. All of this would be enforced with a $100,000 daily fine for companies that violate the law.
At the time of her Facebook ban in January, Chase said Big Tech is ideologically motivated. She said, “Their viewpoint is one of the liberal left, and they’re silencing conservatives.”
In January, Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow Zack Smith told The Star that the First Amendment only prevents government censorship, not censorship from businesses like Facebook or other social media. But he said, “Even though these entities are technically not subject to the First Amendment, we’re a society that values free speech with the free and open exchange of ideas. So anytime that’s being restricted, we certainly need to take close look at that and see why exactly that’s happening.”
Smith added, “It sets a troubling precedent whenever we’re trying to silence people that maybe just simply we disagree with.”
Cox’s announcement comes a week after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a similar Big Tech plan. DeSantis said he would be working with Florida legislators to enact his plan, which includes a $100,000 per day fine for violators. It’s unclear how much power Cox would have to enact a similar plan unless Republicans regain some control in the Virginia legislature.
“We’re seeing states take action where the federal government has failed to, most recently in Florida under the leadership of Governor DeSantis,” Cox Press Secretary Kristen Bennett told The Star. “This is about protecting consumers and the First Amendment – values that Virginians on both sides of the aisle support hold dear. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are platforms for public discourse, and Kirk’s plan ensures that Big Tech takes seriously the responsibility they have to honor free speech.
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