On Thursday, September 2, the Texas House accepted Senate amendments to a must-carry-hate-online bill (HB20), clearing a final legislative hurdle and sending the bill on to Texas Governor Greg Abbott for signature. The bill prohibits social media companies from removing content based on the “viewpoint” of the user — even if that content violates the platform’s community standards. Texas Democrats raised serious concerns during hearings last week that the legislation would prevent social media platforms from taking down anti-Semitic and terrorist content. Gov. Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law.
Chamber of Progress urged Texas lawmakers to vocally oppose the legislation during the special legislative session.
“When you force social media platforms to pull their referees, the bad guys are going to throw more fouls on the court,” said Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich. “Unfortunately this law is only going to put more hate speech, scams and misinformation online, when most people want a safer, healthier Internet.”
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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