Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Tex.) signed a bill on Thursday, Sept. 9, allowing residents to sue social media firms if their content or accounts are removed from their platforms. The move comes as similar legislation in Florida is awaiting a federal judge’s decision.
According to Abbott, House Bill 20 would prohibit firms from barring users based on their political beliefs and allow citizens of the state to sue companies to have accounts that have been wrongfully removed reinstated. The bill is aimed at platforms with at least 50 million monthly users in the United States, which includes companies like Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., and Google’s YouTube, among others, according to Wall Street Journal.
“There is a dangerous movement by some social media companies to silence conservative ideas and values,” Mr. Abbott said in a live video recorded on Facebook. “This is wrong and we will not allow it in Texas.”
Social media sites have stated that they do not discriminate against users based on their political beliefs but enforce regulations on content and individuals who violate their terms of service. Misinformation concerning the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus or COVID-19 disease, incitement to violence, and promotion of illicit acts are examples of such restrictions on platforms.
“This law is going to put more hate speech, scams, terrorist content and misinformation online, when most people want a safer, healthier Internet,” said Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber of Progress. This left-leaning tech policy group was founded earlier this year.
The bill, which would take effect in December, is the latest move in statehouses to reign in technology corporations’ activities throughout the country. However, it is expected to suffer the same enforcement challenges as a bill passed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) in May.
The Florida measure made it illegal for tech platforms to prohibit Florida political candidates and imposed fines for those who did so. It also required businesses to be open about their content-moderation policies and alert users of any policy changes.
A federal judge in Florida halted crucial elements of the bill from going into effect a month later, claiming that it likely violated the First Amendment and was in violation of Federal Law.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 stated that companies aren’t responsible for damaging content that users submit. They can remove content deemed offensive if operating in good faith. On the other hand, some policymakers believe that digital companies have too much power over what information individuals see.
The news also comes after Former President Donald Trump launched class-action lawsuits against Twitter, Facebook, and Google’s YouTube in July, alleging that they were “censoring” the American people.
“One of the gravest threats to our democracy today is a powerful group of Big Tech corporations that have teamed up with government to censor the free speech of the American people,” Donald Trump wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
“This is not only wrong—it is unconstitutional. To restore free speech for myself and for every American, I am suing Big Tech to stop it.”