Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law Thursday barring social media companies from wrongfully censoring users “based on their political beliefs.”
The new legislation aims to hold Big Tech platforms accountable in an age when many large platforms increasingly use their status as private companies to silence conservative voices without consequence.
What are the details?
The legislation, House Bill 20, specifically prevents social media companies with more than 50 million monthly users — such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — from blocking, banning, removing, deplatforming, demonetizing, restrict, or otherwise deny equal access to users based on their viewpoints.
The law also requires that those companies produce regular reports showing the content they removed, create mechanisms for users to file complaints, and disclose their procedures for content regulation.
The new law empowers users to sue the platforms over any censorship violations and also enables the state’s attorney general to file lawsuits on behalf of users.
“We will always defend the freedom of speech in Texas, which is why I am proud to sign House Bill 20 into law to protect First Amendment rights in the Lone Star State,” Abbott said in a statement after signing the legislation.
“Social media websites have become our modern-day public square,” he added. “They are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely — but there is a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas. That is wrong, and we will not allow it in Texas.”
The measure is the latest effort by Republicans to curb censorship of conservatives online, which has been going on for years but seemed to reach a boiling point during the 2020 election season.
The issue garnered national attention in the lead-up to the election, when multiple Big Tech platforms censored a bombshell New York Post story involving potentially damaging information about President Joe Biden found on a laptop belonging to his son, Hunter.
Then, after the election, and immediately following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, those same social media companies made the unprecedented move to ban former President Trump, then a sitting president, from their platforms.