Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday signed a law that prohibits Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other large platforms from suppressing posts based on the authors' political viewpoints.
A federal judge in Florida recently blocked enforcement of a similar bill earlier this year, ruling that it likely violated the companies' First Amendment right to decide what material to carry on their platforms.
The Texas measure (HB 20), which is all but certain to face a court challenge, would allow companies to remove illegal content, but require them to host a large variety of objectionable speech. A proposed amendment that would have explicitly allowed the companies to remove vaccine misinformation failed, as did a proposed amendment that would have explicitly allowed companies to take down posts denying the Holocaust.
As with the Florida bill, the measure appears driven by conservatives' belief that social media companies are particularly likely to suppress right-wing views -- despite a lack of empirical proof.
“In Texas we will always fight for your freedom of speech,” Abbott, a Republican, said Thursday afternoon, when he signed the bill. “It is now a law that conservative viewpoints in Texas cannot be banned on social media.”
The industry-funded Chamber of Progress, which opposes the law, characterizes the measure as a “must-carry hate online” bill.
"When you force social media platforms to pull their referees, the bad guys are going to throw more fouls,” Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich stated Thursday. “This law is going to put more hate speech, scams, terrorist content, and misinformation online, when most people want a safer, healthier Internet.”