Montana Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci has posited a very interesting concept; should social media be regulated like any public utility?

After what happened to former President Donald Trump before the 2020 election, Pinocci believed so strongly in that concept, that he introduced a bill in the Montana legislature to do just that.

“We certainly have evidence that social media has been using discrimination based on your religion or your political party affiliation,” said Commissioner Pinocci. “We've got the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey recorded without his knowledge that he was encouraging his employees the roll up their sleeves and we have more work to do to discriminate against Republicans and takes credit for Trump losing the presidency. You know, a person could look at that as treason.”

Last spring Pinocci got together with Missoula legislator Brad Tschida and crafted House Bill 573, which would treat social media companies like public utilities and place them under the authority of a state Public Service Commission.

“The Public Service Commission is entirely funded by the utilities, which means social media would have had to pay the Public Service Commission to regulate social media, not the taxpayer,” he said. “The complaint would have been split between the general fund of Montana and the person making the complaint. My bill said we can fine social media up to 1% of the gross income, and that would be like $50 million per complaint. $25 million going to the State of Montana, the other $25 million going to the person filing the complaint.”

The bill failed by one vote after 18 House Republicans voted against it. Pinocci said Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas head of the bill and thought it would be an excellent idea.

“I have in front of me an article in which Justice Thomas argues for making Facebook, Twitter and Google utilities,” he said. “Last fall Justice Clarence Thomas argued that it was time to rein in utilities, putting them under a Public Service Commission and making social media a utility. So that's a pretty big quote.”

Pinocci said Justice Thomas’ comments were just a little too late to influence the Montana Legislature.

“I was, I believe, the first Public Service Commissioner in the country to publicly ask for this duty, help write the legislation, stand by a representative to get it introduced. And we lost by one vote and then Justice Thomas, behind me, supports it just a few days after we lost the vote. I'll continue to push forward with this.”

Pinocci said Montanans should unseat all the Republican legislators who voted against HB 573.

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