Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives last night stopped legislation (SB 12) that would have tied online platforms’ hands in combating toxic, incendiary content. By raising a point of order against the bill and postponing its consideration beyond last night’s midnight deadline, Democrats took a significant stand against hate, lies, and disinformation online.
The Chamber of Progress, a new center-left tech industry coalition that strongly opposed the bill, hailed the leadership of House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Chris Turner, Rep. Celia Israel, Rep. Rafael Anchia, Rep. Joe Moody, Rep. John Bucy III, and Rep. Alex Dominguez as instrumental in defeating the bill during the final days of the legislature’s biennial session.
The bill, which would have violated platforms’ constitutional rights to moderate their own services, was earlier approved by the Texas State Senate. Its defeat stands in contrast to a similar bill signed into law in Florida earlier this week.
“Most people want a healthy and happy experience online, but this bill would have tied websites’ hands and forced Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to become anything-goes cesspools like 4Chan and Gab,” said Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich. “Texas Democrats stood strong against hate, hoaxes, and conspiracies online.”
The bill would have:
- Caused social media services to be overrun with disinformation and conspiracy theories. The bill’s ban on “censoring a user’s expression…based on the viewpoint of the user or another person” would have hobbled platforms’ freedom to remove or downrank QAnon conspiracies, vaccine disinformation, or former President Trump’s election “Big Lie.”
- Given Russian trolls more tools to interfere with our elections. The bill’s requirement that social platforms publicly disclose “specific information regarding how the social media platform…moderates content [and] uses search, ranking, or other algorithms” would have enabled trolls to devise new strategies to evade platforms’ evolving rules.
- Empowered the Attorney General to bring politically-motivated lawsuits against platforms for removing or downranking incendiary speech. The bill would have turned the state Attorney General into the political speech police, by giving him the right to bring legal action and impose financial penalties on social platforms for disallowing certain posts.
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The Chamber of Progress (progresschamber.org) is a new center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology’s progressive future. We work to ensure that all Americans benefit from technological leaps, and that the tech industry operates responsibly and fairly.
Our corporate partners do not have a vote on or veto over our positions. We do not speak for individual partner companies and remain true to our stated principles even when our partners disagree.