Republicans defeated carve-out amendments, forcing Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to publish hate
On Friday night, Aug. 27, Republican members of the Texas House of Representatives passed HB 20, a “must carry hate online” bill prohibiting social media companies from removing content based on the “viewpoint of the user” — even if that content violates the platform’s community standards. Democrats raised serious concerns during hearings last week that the legislation would prevent social media platforms from taking down anti-Semitic and terrorist content.
During the Friday night vote, Texas Democratic Reps. Donna Howard and Jon Rosenthal offered amendments that would explicitly allow social media platforms to take down posts related to Holocaust denial, domestic and international terrorism, and vaccine disinformation. Republicans succeeded in defeating all three amendments, effectively requiring that social media sites carry all three types of content.
“Between Florida and Texas, we’re now used to seeing Republicans mandate that social media sites carry hate speech. But Texas Republicans voting to protect Holocaust denial and terrorist speech online is a sad new low,” said Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich. “Most Americans want a safer Internet, but this gives hate groups and extremists an open invitation into your newsfeed.”
The sponsor of HB 20, Texas Rep. Briscoe Cain, admitted during this week’s bill hearing that he himself had been temporarily blocked from Twitter after threatening gun violence against presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. When asked whether his threat posts should have been allowed to stay up, Rep. Cain responded, “Of course.”
The Texas bill bears a strong resemblance to a recently passed Florida law that prohibits social media platforms from taking down misinformation, hate speech, and other extreme content. Last month, a federal court struck down the Florida law for violating the First Amendment rights of social media companies to moderate content hosted on their own platforms.
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