May. 16, 2024

Free Speech Must Be Prioritized 

Good intentions can sometimes lead to bad execution.

This is really the only way to describe House Bil 2017, a proposal intending to make using social media safer, especially for children. Unfortunately, the bill presents some concerns to our First Amendment rights.

The proposal was considered by the House earlier this month and passed 105-95. It is now referred to the Senate.

The most well-intended portion of the bill is that social media outlets would be required to verify a user’s age. Those under the age of 16 would need to have approval of a parent or guardian before being allowed to establish an account.

In speaking with parents around the district, I understand the concerns about their children using social media without their knowledge.

Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon story. Parents find out weeks, maybe even months afterward that their pre-teen or teen has been using social media without their permission. In some cases, this fact is only made evident after a very difficult lesson is learned.

The language in this portion of the proposal was a bit flawed because of how much of a young person’s private information was allowed to be gathered for the purpose of targeted advertising. I would have preferred that data collection related to younger social media users be completely prohibited.

But the strongest concern with House Bill 2017 was a provision that would require social media platforms to ban hate speech. At first glance, that may not seem unreasonable.

However, the bill only vaguely defines what is considered hate speech, and this is where my concern lies.

You are likely familiar with the phrase, “I may not agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.” Though it was first used by British writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall in 1906, it certainly has appeal to us here in the United States.

I would never advocate for a person to speak hatefully of another. It is quite often that I interact with someone who adamantly disagrees with me on any given topic. In those cases, I am happy to discuss ideas and points of view. Perhaps we find common ground and perhaps not.

And while I would never speak, or act, out of hatred, I am very careful about using government to ban certain types of speech. This concept is the core of United States Constitution’s First Amendment.

Some of these concerns could have been addressed during the amendment process. Unfortunately, House Democrat leaders again used a procedural maneuver to eliminate the consideration of proposed amendments. This is a shame because some of the amendments offered important and worthwhile changes.

I am optimistic that with the right dialogue between legislators we can arrive at a legislative product that better addresses safety and does not impede our constitutional rights. Unfortunately, in its current draft, House Bill 2017 is not it.

Here are some additional news topics and reminders I would like to share.

Free Mobile Shredding Event Planned – Do you have old documents with sensitive information that need to be disposed of safely? On Thursday, May 23, from 4-6 p.m.  at my Washington Township/Export Office in the Donal Plaza, I am hosting a free Mobile Shredding Event.

I am excited to partner with the Westmoreland Food Bank to merge this event with a food drive to help local families.

There is a limit of two bags or boxes per household for shredding. Examples of items to be destroyed include bank and card statements, tax documents, insurance claim forms and anything else that lists a Social Security number. Staples, paper clips and manila folders are acceptable; however, books, magazines or metal binding materials other than staples cannot be shredded. 

The documents received are shredded in a truck on-site and then taken to a local paper recycling plant to be treated and reused. Only personal shredding is permitted. No documents from commercial businesses will be accepted.

Donations to the Westmoreland Food Bank are optional. Donations must be non-perishable foods in non-glass containers.

Fish for Free Coming Up Next Weekend! - On Sunday, May 26, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will host a Fish for Free day to allow anyone (resident or non-resident) to legally fish on all Pennsylvania waterways. No license is required, but all other fishing regulations still apply. 

This is the first of two dates set by the PFBC to enhance fishing opportunities. The next day is Independence Day, Thursday, July 4. This is a great way to expose the next generation of anglers to the outdoors. More information about fishing in Pennsylvania is available at

Grant Opportunity for Archival Records - The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and the Pennsylvania State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB) are now accepting applications for the Historical and Archival Records Care (HARC) grant program. The application deadline is Aug. 1. 

Funding is available for historical records repositories, such as historical societies, libraries, universities, local governments and school districts for collections care. 

Individual grants will be funded up to $5,000 with no match required. Collaborative grants will allow two organizations to apply jointly for up to $10,000 or three organizations to apply collaboratively for up to $15,000, no match required. Funding is provided by PHMC.

The HARC program is designed to improve the preservation of historically valuable original records. Applicants are required to use PHMC’s web-based electronic grant application process. For grant program guidelines and grant application instructions, visit

Representative Jill Cooper
55th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jordan Frei
724-875-8450 /