- Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are targets of Texas ’new social media censorship law
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the new law, says social media censors conservative views.
- Social media legislation is likely to face a constitutional challenge in relation to the issues of the First Amendment.
Google’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitter will fight a new Texas law that represses social media companies for allegedly censoring conservative speech and former President Donald Trump.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who publicly supported the legislation, signed the bill Thursday, making Texas the second state for companies to restrict or remove content or accounts for violating its rules.
“There is a dangerous movement by some social media companies to silence conservative ideas and values,” Abbott said during a press conference. “This is wrong and we will not allow it in Texas.”
Texas law, passed in the final days of the second special session convened by Abbott, would allow any resident of the state who was banned from a social media platform for their political views to channel the platform.
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The state attorney general could also sue on behalf of a user or group of users.
It’s similar to a Florida law that was blocked in June by a federal judge a day before it could go into effect.
Commercial groups representing the technology industry pledged to challenge the law on the same basis they challenged Florida law, which they say has the same First Amendment flaws and is unconstitutional.
“The same result will surely occur in Texas,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice.
“Moderating user posts is crucial to keeping the Internet safe for Texas families, but this bill would put the Texas government at the forefront of content policies,” he said.
Proponents of the new law hailed its approval.
“Texas’ new law, Bill 20, is a critical step Lone Star lawmakers are taking to protect the free speech rights of its constituents, ”said Samantha Fillmore, the state government’s relations manager. conservative think tank The Heartland Institute.
“There is no doubt that great technology is fundamental to freedom of speech today,” he said. “Because of this, Big Tech can no longer unilaterally decide who can say what without taking responsibility.”
Dozens of states are considering legislation to restrict the way social media platforms regulate people’s speech, though few have come this far.
These bills resonate with conservatives who believe their first-amendment rights are violated when social media posts are tagged or removed or when their accounts are banned because they violate network platform policies. social. Trump’s suspensions from major platforms inspired the new accounts.
“It is likely that this Texas movement, a major proponent of national politics, will inspire other states to take steps to show their citizens that America is and will continue to be a place for free thought, expression, and expression,” Fillmore said.
Texas law promotes the debate on the First Amendment
The first amendment protects people from federal government censorship, not from content moderation decisions by private companies.
Social media companies say they are not targeting conservatives, only harmful speech that violates their rules.
Texas House Democrats warned during a recent hearing that the new law would prevent social media companies from removing harmful content. They offered amendments that would have eliminated sites that promoted Holocaust denial, terrorism, and vaccine misinformation, but were defeated.
“Forcing social media platforms to stop moderating content, whether misinformation or hate speech, will have real consequences for the world,” said Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber of Progress, a technology industry coalition that includes Facebook and Google.
“What is said online not only stays online, it affects people’s lives and affects our health, our democracy and our communities,” he said in a statement to USA TODAY.
New laws punish social media for “censoring” conservatives, Trump
Florida was the first state to push for legislation when Trump ally Ron DeSantis signed a bill in May that penalizes social media companies for withdrawing or banning politicians ’speech.
However, a federal judge temporarily blocked the new law after NetChoice and the Communications and Computer Industry Association (commercial groups representing Facebook, Google and other technology companies) sued. DeSantis is attractive.
Texas law goes beyond that of Florida, as it applies to all users and prevents social media platforms from making decisions based on the “point of view” expressed in the message.
The Republican claim that powerful tech companies are biased against the Conservatives is becoming the main topic to lay the groundwork for the 2022 midterm elections.
Both Abbott and DeSantis are widely considered possible candidates for the 2024 GOP presidency from large states with large electoral votes. Abbott faces his first Republican primary challenges to be re-elected governor.
“Big Tech’s efforts to silence conservative views are non-American, non-Texan and unacceptable and will soon go against the law in the state of Texas,” Abbott said at a news conference announcing legislation similar to March.
The Heartland Institute has recently estimated that 70 bills in 30 states are challenging the “censorship of big technologies.”
The Republican claim that powerful technology companies are biased against and “cancel” conservatives is becoming one of the main issues to lay the groundwork for the 2022 midterm elections.
The Republican Party is betting on increasing voter registration, turnout and fundraising as it tries to regain the U.S. House and Senate, political observers say. It could also help Republicans at the state level.
Trump, who was banned from major social media platforms after the Jan. 6 insurgency, stepped up his war with Big Tech in July when he filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Google and Twitter and its CEOs, in the Alleging that the companies infringed their First Amendment rights.
Trump and Republicans picked up the lawsuit, though legal experts say he has virtually no chance of success.
Are conventional social media biased against conservatives?
The perception that tech companies and the executive billionaires who run them has long skewed conservatives, but it intensified as Trump turned “social media abuse” into one of the main axes of his campaign. of administration and re-election.
After losing the presidency, Trump attacked technology companies for labeling or removing sites that spread falsehoods about the outcome of the presidential election.
Complaints of ideological bias come from across the political spectrum, but it is difficult to show that social media platforms are targeted at any group. Technology companies disclose little about how they decide what content is allowed and what is not.
Researchers at New York University, the University of Virginia and elsewhere say they have found no evidence to support GOP complaints that social media companies are drowning out conservative voices. In any case, they say, social media platforms amplify the voices of conservatives and shape the worldviews of millions of voters.
But for some conservatives, the 2020 election demonstrated Big Tech’s ideological bias. They point out that tech companies are restricting the release of a New York Post article that made unconfirmed claims about Hunter Biden’s business relationships, Trump’s social media bans and the removal of Parler, a popular social media platform among the political right.
Nine out of ten Republicans and independents leaning toward the Republican Party say social media platforms are at least somewhat likely to censor political views they find unpleasant, just over 85% in 2018, according to a report August from the Pew Research Center.