Sponsors view it as a friendly veto

SALT LAKE CITY Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed S.B. 228 Electronic Free Speech Amendments, with consent from the Senate President, Speaker of the House and bill sponsors. After conversations with the legislative and executive branches, this action was jointly determined as the best path forward due to technical issues. Censorship by tech companies is a serious concern, and this action will not hinder nor prevent Utah from finding the right policy solution. 

“The sponsors of this bill have raised valid questions about the impact social media platforms can have on public discourse and debate,” said Gov. Cox. “Our country continues to grapple with very real and novel issues around freedom of speech, the rights of private companies and the toxic divisiveness caused by these new forms of connection, information and communication. While I have serious concerns about the bill, I appreciate the willingness of the bill’s sponsors to continue to seek a better solution. Utah must be a leader in this space and I look forward to engaging with legislators and social media companies to address these legitimate concerns.”

S.B. 228 had made significant headway and elevated Utah’s position in conversations with big tech corporations. Utah policymakers along with the governor will work closely with stakeholders to ensure all Utahns have an equal opportunity to exercise their First Amendment right.

“I appreciate the commitment from stakeholders who have agreed to work with the Legislature to craft a better solution that will increase transparency within social media corporations,” said Sen. Mike McKell. “Censorship practices are un-American and likely unconstitutional. In Utah, we defend the right to freely express opinions and views, regardless of political or religious affiliation. The outcome of S.B. 228 is not ideal; however, the issue of free speech and online censorship remains a priority and policy will continue to be refined throughout interim.”

Sen. Mike McKell intends to open a new bill file on May 5, 2021, to address censorship issues. The policy in the new bill will be determined after listening and consulting with stakeholders, lawmakers and the Executive Branch.

“Free speech is one of our most cherished American values and essential to democracy,” said President J. Stuart Adams. “With the rise of social media, the issue of censorship has become increasingly prevalent, and the need for corporation transparency has proven necessary. While I support the concept and ideas of S.B. 228, after conversations with Gov. Cox, Speaker Wilson Sen. McKell and Rep. Brammer, we decided continuing the discussion regarding online censorship will be the most productive path forward. Together as Americans, we must ensure the right to speak freely remains intact, and I look forward to addressing this issue in the near future.” 

"Social media platforms have become the modern town square and users deserve clear guidelines for how they can appropriately express their opinions," said Speaker Brad Wilson. "As life online becomes an integral part of our daily routine, these issues will continue to merit the attention of lawmakers and we are committed to continuing our collaborative and transparent policy making process."

“We appreciate Utah’s measured approach to this matter and look forward to working with them and other experts to ensure online platforms' community standards are transparent while still protecting children and other vulnerable communities,” said Will Castleberry, Vice President, State Policy for Facebook. 

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