Senate President Jake Chapman floor managed Senate File 580 through the Iowa Senate on Wednesday. The bill, which is sponsored by 30 of the 32 Republicans in the chamber, passed on a party-line vote.
Chapman said he found it “quite unfortunate and disappointing” that the Senate needed to take up the legislation.
“But the reality is we have Big Tech companies here in Iowa being shielded by an antiquated law known as Section 230 of the United States Code,” he said. “This code provides liability immunity for Big Tech companies from censoring, removing or otherwise modifying content that Iowans can either public or that Iowans can see and read.
“The sad reality is that we have liberal executives in the Silicon Valley dictating what Iowans are going to be fed through social media platforms. Today we have a bill before us that sends a message to Big Tech companies – that Iowans will no longer foot the bill for their reckless disregard of their constitutional rights.”
The bill was amended to ensure that Big Tech companies who have earned the tax credits already will retain those incentives they’ve already earned.
Democrat Sen. Janet Petersen said there was not a single person who spoke in favor of the bill during a subcommittee in Ways and Means. Subcommittee and committee meetings in Ways and Means are intended to focus on the tax policy or fiscal policy of a bill – not the actual policy the bill is implementing.
“This is an anti-jobs, anti-tech, anti-business and anti-growth bill,” Petersen said. “You’d think after spending the past 12 months living through a global pandemic, Republicans running the show at the statehouse would come back focused on jobs and the economy. I have seen such an anti-job, anti-growth and anti-business agenda coming out of this statehouse in my life.”
Democrat State Sen. Liz Mathis said that the bill will make Iowa last in technology.
“This bill takes us to the land of backward thinking,” Mathis said. “It demonstrates delusions of mediocrity and it ensures that creative companies will whisper that Iowa is the last place you would want to locate for innovation. Is that our state’s destination?”
Mathis predicted the bill would create a chilling effect on businesses considering Iowa.
Republican State Senators Jim Carlin and Jeff Taylor spoke in support of the bill. Carlin defended freedom, free speech and the future of America while Taylor focused on the irony of Democrats standing up for big business, millionaires and essentially the stifling of free speech.
Democrat State Sen. Claire Celsi went over the “cost” of the bill, as if free speech is for sale.
Democrat Sen. Bill Dotzler claimed that the Soviet Union spread lies through various social media platforms in the last presidential election. It wasn’t an accidental slip-up either, as he referenced “the Soviets” again shortly after.
Republican Sen. Zach Whiting picked up on that and mentioned it, sort of, when he spoke.
“I am open to an amendment to prevent Czechoslovakia from interfering in our elections – that country doesn’t exist anymore either,” Whiting quipped.
Chapman tore apart the arguments offered by the Democrats in his closing remarks.
He pointed out to Petersen that the senators represent 60,000 Iowans. And, while the Big Tech companies have the lobby and their trade association does their bidding for them, the Senate’s responsibility is to Iowans.
“I would suggest that freedom is what Iowans care about – our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain,” Chapman said. “Perhaps we should have put an appropriation on the bill for those who don’t want to vote for it, that we can erase our motto and remove it from our flag,” Chapman said.
Chapman asked if a lawsuit filed by 48 states, including Iowa, challenges Facebook for antitrust.
“Is that a chilling effect,” Chapman asked.
He asked why Celsi changed her position.
“Ironically, she had her own tweet just a few months ago,” Chapman said. “’Mark Zuckerberg must be stopped somehow. If he doesn’t have the scruples to reign in Facebook – then it must be regulated. Hate to see it come to this, but it’s necessary.’
“Why the change of heart? Is it the fact that in 2009 it was a Democrat-controlled Senate, House and Governor that passed the original tax breaks for Big Tech? I don’t know.”
Chapman also took issue with Democrat Sen. Zach Wahls, who asserted that censorship of conservatives on social media doesn’t exist.
“WHO did a special TV series on this issue,” Chapman said. “And when you have the reporter reporting on the allegation of voter fraud, that reporter was put in Facebook jail because it violated some sort of community standard of misinformation. So, what is the harm? Let’s talk about that.”
Chapman noted Facebook’s removal of a story about Hunter Biden, which later proved to be true.
“When I spoke to their leaders, of Facebook, their quote was we were demonstrably wrong,” Chapman said. “Exactly what they said. That’s right. They were demonstrably wrong about censoring that story. And yet a poll shows nearly 10 percent of Americans would’ve changed their viewpoint had they been more informed about the Hunter Biden story. That’s the real harm to our republic. Somehow, Facebook and Twitter and Zuckerberg and all these folks think they’re the arbiter of truth.”
Amazon also censored speech by refusing to sell a book by Justin Donald, an investor who wanted to explain how he made money during COVID-19.
Amazon, though, wouldn’t allow his book to be sold because he was not a medical professional and could not use the words in his book pandemic, COVID, COVID-19 and Coronavirus.
“That’s the censorship we’re talking about,” Chapman said.
He closed by talking about efforts by other countries to address Big Tech censorship.
“Might I suggest that we have never lived under communism in this great country, and God help us if we ever do,” he said. “But maybe we can learn something from someone who has. The Deputy Polish Justice Minister, Sebastian Coletta, said the following – ‘Poland spent 45 years under communism. That experience has taught us the value of free speech. And then when the country sees these disturbing trends towards censorship, the red light goes on.’
“We have a Constitution. We have a Bill of Rights. What we were told here on the floor is sell it. Sell it. Billion dollars, $500 million dollars, we need the jobs, we’re losing population, put it in the shredder. I sure hope we never turn our backs on our oath to support and defend the Constitution.”
Chapman noted that Big Tech companies are a big foe for a small state like Iowa.
“Perhaps you are, today’s Goliath, and perhaps Iowa is only a small David,” he said. “But let me predict, you will fall. It may not be with this bill. But the time will come where you will fall. And the reason why is because Americans, Iowans, value their freedom.
“So if they choose to follow a path of tyrannical propagandists, which is what we have seen in recent months, we will still be here. We will continue to fight them. We will continue to introduce legislation until they respect the dignity of thought and opinion, the very thing that created this great nation.
“If King George had the power that these Big Tech companies have today, had he had that power, would we have had an American Revolution? Would we have had the opportunity to form this great nation? He could have simply declared that the Declaration of Independence was all false allegations and shut it down.”