MASON CITY, Iowa - A bill passed Wednesday in the Iowa Senate could strip major tech companies of local and state tax breaks and government contracts if they restrict certain types of speech on their platforms.
Senate File 580 would require companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft to respect 'Constitutionally protected' free speech online of Iowans. It would also require the Attorney General's office to investigate censorship complaints and take companies to court. If found in violation, incentives would be revoked from a company for 20 years.
State Senator Dennis Guth (R - Klemme), who co-sponsored the bill, feels that big tech companies are limiting and censoring Conservative viewpoints, and is wanting to hold them accountable.
"In the world we live in now, we have a lot of our information coming to us via the internet. If we want to know something, we go out and do a Google search. If we want to know something about COVID-19, where do we go? We go to the internet. If we have Google or big tech companies saying we only want to show one side of the information, then we're not able to make good, educated decisions."
The bill would also prevent tax payer money from going to companies that remove an Iowan's ability to download other social networking sites, or purchase protected publications and material on online marketplaces, and allows Iowans to opt out of post promoting or shadow banning algorithms. Currently, Facebook has a data center in Altoona, Amazon has a warehouse in Bondurant, and an Apple data center is being constructed in Waukee.
"We have many of these big tech companies located in Iowa, and they have received hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks. So we want to make sure if they keep those tax breaks, they're going to operate fairly for all people."
State Senator Amanda Ragan (D - Mason City) voted against the bill, saying it would hurt the state's position to do business and attract a tech workforce.
"Our labor force has really decreased in the state of Iowa over the last 10 years, and we're wanting to make sure people are seeing this as a place they want to be and want to come, certainly some opportunities for young people to stay in the tech field by having jobs in the state through some of these companies."
In addition, she feels that legislative priorities need to be focused on coronavirus relief.
"We're doing things for Iowans and getting them back to work, making sure they have money in their pocket to buy services, and making sure our economy is back to where it was before all of this."
The bill, which passed 30-17 along party lines, now heads to the House, where a similar bill is being discussed. However, House File 830 focuses on penalizing companies if found censoring elected officials or political candidates.