Commentary

Texas Governor Pushes Unconstitutional Crackdown On Social Media

A federal judge recently blocked enforcement of Florida's unconstitutional social media bill, which would have curbed web publishers' First Amendment right to decide what speech to allow on their platforms.

But that's not stopping the Texas Governor Greg Abbott from trying to push through even more extreme limits on social media companies.

The proposed Texas social media bill would prohibit large platforms from blocking, banning or demonetizing state residents based on their political opinions.

Texas state senators passed the measure in March, but the bill stalled in the House after Democrats walked out in late May, depriving the legislature of a quorum.

Last week, the Republican Texas governor called a special 30-day session to take up unfinished business -- including the social media bill, contentious new voting restrictions and other controversial measures.

Late Monday, state Democrats decamped to Washington, D.C., in order to again deprive the legislature of a quorum. It's not yet clear whether they will remain out of state until the session ends. But even if they do, Abbott has vowed to continue calling special sessions indefinitely.

advertisement

advertisement

If passed, the bill could subject Facebook, Twitter and Google to large fines for restricting hate speech, or propaganda spread by a foreign government, Tom Leatherbury, director of the First Amendment Clinic at the SMU Dedman School of Law, writes in The Dallas Morning News.

Proponents of the social media bills in Texas and Florida insist that tech companies censor speech espousing right-wing viewpoints, despite a lack of empirical proof.

“They are controlling the flow of information -- and sometimes denying the flow of information,” Abbott reportedly said earlier this year, when he first touted the proposed law. “Texas is taking a stand against big tech political censorship. We're not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.”

The new effort in Texas comes as other prominent Republicans continue to insist they're the victim of “censorship” by Silicon Valley companies.

Last week, former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit accusing Google, Twitter and Facebook of violating his free speech rights.

Nearly all legal experts believe the lawsuit will quickly fail in court, but Trump apparently hopes news of his claims will succeed in raising funds.

That same day, House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee issued their “Agenda for Taking on Big Tech,” which began with the statement: “Big Tech is out to get conservatives.”

Despite Republicans' accusations, there has never been any empirical proof that tech companies disproportionately suppress right-wing viewpoints.

Back in 2018, law professor Ari Waldman, who studied companies' content moderation policies, attempted to debunk the idea that social media platforms are particularly likely to squelch conservatives.

"Lots of content gets filtered out, but no more so from the right than from the left," he told Congress.

More recently, researchers at the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights called the claim of anti-conservative bias by tech companies "a form of disinformation: a falsehood with no reliable evidence to support it."

2 comments about "Texas Governor Pushes Unconstitutional Crackdown On Social Media".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. john pistone from toshiba, July 14, 2021 at 1:13 p.m.

    What happened to the individual's first ammendment right?  If social media claims to be a bulletin board for all speach, then they can't filter.  If they wish to filter then they need to be held accountable as a publisher.  Can't have both.

  2. Mark Mueller from Lever Interactive, July 14, 2021 at 6:26 p.m.

    Completely agree with John P above. Tech platforms cannot have their cake and eat it too. 
    BTW - companies aren't entitled to First Amendment rights; people are. 

Next story loading loading..