The Texas state Senate passed a bill on Thursday, April 1, prohibiting social media sites from censoring people based on their political beliefs or where they live in the state.
According to the Washington Examiner, under Senate Bill 12, Texans who have been wrongfully removed or blocked on a social media site, such as Facebook or Twitter, would be able to recover their accounts.
The measure requires social media companies’ transparency toward their users on how they moderate content on their platforms, provide regular feedback about what content is censored, and establish an appeals process for users whose content is deleted.
All platforms or websites of “more than 100 million functionally active users in a calendar month” would be subject to the bill. Parler and Gab would be excluded.
Conservatives have complained that Big Tech firms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram target their content based on their political beliefs.
In a speech endorsing the state Senate bill in early March, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shared his concern over “censorship.”
“America was built on freedom of speech and healthy public debate, and efforts to silence conservative viewpoints on social media are wrong and weaken public discourse,” Abbott added. “With SB 12, Senator Hughes is taking a stand against Big Tech’s political censorship and protecting Texans’ right to freedom of expression,”
Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas will now have the authority to prosecute any social media corporation that violates the new law.
State Senator Bryan Hughes, the bill’s creator, declared the bill’s passage in a tweet. The bill was proposed in early March, and in the coming weeks, it will be passed to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
“I think we all have to acknowledge the social media companies are the new town square and a small group of people in San Francisco can’t dictate free speech for the rest of us,” Hughes stated.
“It needs to be an open exchange of ideas.”
After several hours of debate, Senate Bill 7 (Election Integrity) and Senate Bill 12 (Social Media Censorship) fully passed the Texas Senate early this morning. #txlege #SB12 #SB7 @Scott_SanfordTX @BriscoeCain pic.twitter.com/HdQPc2FBy7
— Senator Bryan Hughes (@SenBryanHughes) April 1, 2021
First Amendment supporters believe the measure will likely be challenged in court if passed and signed into law.
Conservative attorneys are worried that the bill would encourage large social media sites to adjust their advertising policies and regulations to shunt a lawsuit.
Abbott said it would “prevent social media platforms from canceling conservative speech.”
“Too many social media sites silence conservative speech and ideas and trample free speech,” Abbott wrote in a tweet.
I am joining @SenBryanHughes to announce a bill prohibiting social media companies from censoring viewpoints.
Too many social media sites silence conservative speech and ideas and trample free speech.
It's un-American, Un-Texan, & soon to be illegal.https://t.co/zSdirRa1pj
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 5, 2021
He also said in a press release, “America was built on freedom of speech and healthy public debate, and efforts to silence conservative viewpoints on social media are wrong and weaken public discourse.”
Following the Capitol’s breach on January 6, former President Donald Trump was suspended from social media sites, sparking intensified calls to stop social media censorship.