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(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Senate rejected a bill Tuesday that called for making social media companies subject to lawsuits for deleting or limiting political or religious speech.

Senate Bill 196 by Sen. Jay Morris, a West Monroe Republican, targeted sites with at least 75 million members, namely Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Users could sue for actual damages plus up to $75,000 in punitive damages “if the social media website knowingly deletes or censors the user's rights of religious speech or political speech, or uses an algorithm to disfavor or censor a user's religious or political speech.”

Similar bills have been introduced in other states but none have been enacted, according to committee testimony. While supporters said they want to protect free speech on the most influential platforms, opponents said the bill would violate federal law and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“They have the right to edit their content as they see fit,” Eric Peterson, who works on technology policy for the free-market Pelican Institute for Public Policy, said during the bill’s committee hearing.

Senators voted 19-18 for the bill, falling one short of the 20-vote majority needed to send Morris’ bill to the House. House Bill 602, a similar bill, was killed in committee Monday. House Bill 14, also with similar aims, awaits a committee hearing.

In other legislative action Tuesday:

• The House voted, 69-30, for House Bill 118, a “firearm protection act” that purports to prevent state enforcement of any federal law deemed to violate the Second Amendment, declaring such laws “invalid and of no effect in this state.”

• The Senate voted, 28-9, for Senate Bill 198 to ban using COVID-19 vaccination status as a condition to enter any state buildings intended for public use.

• The House voted, 69-35, for House Bill 20 to prohibit the use of private funds to pay election-related expenses. Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a similar bill last year.

• The House voted, 98-1, for House Bill 38 to require public school systems to post their financial information on the state's Louisiana Checkbook website.

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