The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, Thursday signed into law a bill prohibiting social media platforms from censoring users’ digital expression based on viewpoints or geographic location. The law comes two months after a Florida federal judge in July blocked similar legislation by Governor Ron DeSantis.
Section 143A.002 of the new law prohibits social media platforms from censoring a user, their expression or their ability to receive the expression of another person based on the viewpoint of the user or another person, or the viewpoint represented in the user’s expression or another person’s expression. It also prohibits such censoring based on the user’s geographic location within the state. It applies regardless of whether the viewpoint has been expressed on a social media platform or through any other platform.
Social media platforms are also mandated to publically disclose accurate information about their content and data management as well as their business practices, such as the manner for curating and targeting content to users, moderating users, using algorithms for determining results on the platform etc. The disclosure must be easily accessible and sufficient to enable users to make an informed choice regarding the purchase or use of the services offered by the platform.
Further, they must publish an “acceptable use” policy that informs users about the type of content allowed, the steps that they will take to ensure the content complies with such policy, and the means through which users can notify potentially violative content.
Industry groups have decried the bill as unconstitutional for requiring social media platforms to host extremist groups, hate speech and misinformation under the garb of free expression. Adam Kovacevich, the CEO of Chamber of Progress stated: “This law is going to put more hate speech, scams, terrorist content, and misinformation online, when most people want a safer, healthier Internet.” The Computer & Communications Industry Association said the First Amendment right allows private companies to determine what material is appropriate for their communities and “compelling private companies to host extremist content couldn’t be further from what the Founders intended.”