The Texas Senate approved a bill Thursday that would stop social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube from discriminating against users based on their viewpoint or location within the state. The bill will now head to the state House legislature, where two identical bills have been filed but not yet advanced.
According to the Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 12 would allow Texans to get back online if a social media platform suspends or blocks their account based on their political or religious views.
The bill would require all social media companies with at least 100 million monthly users to be transparent about their content moderation policies, publish frequent reports about content they take down, and create a fair appeals process for user-generated content that is removed. The legislation would not apply to platforms such as Parler and Gab, which are popular among conservatives, because they do not have over 100 million users.
The bill also grants the Texas attorney general the ability to sue any company that violates parts of the legislation.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced his support for the measure in March and said the bill would “prevent social media platforms from canceling conservative speech,” a complaint lodged by many conservatives after former President Donald Trump was banned from most major social media platforms for his role in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack.
“Too many social media sites silence conservative speech and ideas and trample free speech. It’s un-American, Un-Texan, and soon to be illegal,” Abbott wrote in a tweet in early March.
Lawyers and first amendment advocates expect the bill, if made into law, to be challenged in court.
Conservative lawyers say anti-censorship bills like the one in Texas could backfire and result in less conservative speech because social media platforms will be incentivized to change their content guidelines and rules to restrict more content out of an abundance of caution to avoid getting sued.
Author: Nihal Krishan
Source: Washington Examiner: Texas Senate greenlights bill to prevent social media companies from censoring Texans for political views