The new law protects users who wish to express an opinion not sanctioned by the liberal elite in Silicon Valley. The law states that Big Tech giants must not ban users ‘simply based on their political viewpoints.’
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It targets companies with at least 50 million users in the United States – including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and would allow residents to sue the companies if they find themselves banned or censored.
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‘Social media websites have become our modern-day public square,’ Abbott declared after signing the bill into law on Thursday.
‘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.’
Dailymail.co.uk reports: Conservatives have accused these social media giants of stifling their voices and disproportionately targeting them over liberal and Democratic users.
The social media platforms, though, have consistently defended themselves against such accusations.
The new law comes months after former President Donald Trump was booted from Facebook and Twitter, when a group of his supporters breached the Capitol in January in an attempt to protest and prevent Joe Biden from taking office.
Twitter claimed that it took Trump off the site over concerns the then-president would use social media to incite violence following the attack.
But under the new Texas law, it is illegal for social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly active users to ban people from their site based on their political viewpoints, and prevents the companies from demonetizing users or removing their posts.
It would also require social media companies to be transparent about their content moderation policies and make reports about any posts they remove, according to the Washington Examiner, as well as build a complaint system on their websites.
And it would only let social media networks ban hate speech if it involves ‘specific threats of violence,’ Ars Technica reports.
‘It is now law that conservative viewpoints in Texas cannot be banned on social media,’ Abbott said upon signing the legislation.
The bill initially failed earlier this year when Democrats flooded the state legislature to stall the passage of what they deemed to be controversial partisan bills, but it was revived in a special session in July and passed through the state legislature at the end of August.
Similar bills are now being considered in Utah, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
It was also expected to run afoul of Constitutional rights of private businesses to decide what is voiced on their platforms.
The Texas law argues that social media platforms function as ‘common carriers,’ and should be forced to host all users, according to the Washington Post.
The idea was popularized by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas earlier this year, who suggested in June that social media companies could be regulated like common carriers, such as phone companies, which face specific regulations due to the importance of the services they offer.
‘At this point, a small handful of social media sites drive the national narrative and have massive influence over the progress and developments of medicine and science, social justice movements, election outcomes and public thought,’ State Rep. Briscoe Cain said when he initially presented the bill on the House floor.
But in June, a federal judge blocked a Florida law from taking effect that would have allowed the state to punish social media companies for banning politicians or political candidates from their platforms, according to CNET.
In that case, the judge found that the law’s prohibition on de-platforming individuals may violate the companies’ right to free-speech, and that the legislation on a whole is ‘viewpoint-based.’
The judge added that much of the bill’s text was ‘wholly at odds with accepted constitutional principles.
Some Free Speech advocates now say the Texas law will do the same.
‘This bill abandons conservative values, violates the First Amendment, and forces websites to host obscene, antisemitic, racist, hateful, and otherwise awful content,’ said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice trade association.
‘Moderation of user posts is crucial to keeping the internet safe for Texas families, but this bill would put the Texas government in charge of content policies.’