Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is taking on social media giants with the signing of House Bill 20.
The legislation, which was passed by the state Senate earlier this month, aims to crackdown on popular platforms that allegedly censor conservative viewpoints. Under the law, any web service with at least 50 million active users in the United States will be prohibited from blocking or restricting content based on the creator’s political ideas. It will also require social media sites—including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube—to submit regular reports about removed content, disclose their regulation procedures, as well as create a complaint system in which users can challenge restrictive measures.
According to the Washington Post, the law also allows Texans and the state attorney general to sue a tech company that may have wrongfully banned them from their site.
“We will always defend the freedom of speech in Texas, which is why I am proud to sign House Bill 20 into law to protect first amendment rights in the Lone Star State,” Abbott said in a statement. “Social media websites have become our modern-day public square. 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.”
HB20 also bans email service providers “from impeding the transmission of email messages based on content.”
Opponents of the HB20 say the legislation is unconstitutional, and could have a harmful effect on social media users. They say the law restricts platforms from enforcing their terms of service, as they can no longer remove hateful, obscene, and other problematic content.
“This will certainly be ruled unconstitutional as well, but Republicans won’t pay any price because they view it as good politics,” said Adam Kovacevich, the CEO of the Chamber of Progress. “It’s going to keep heading into a First Amendment buzz saw.”
NetChoice President Steve DelBianco made a similar statement, underscoring the importance of social media regulation to ensure public safety.
“Moderation of user posts is crucial to keeping the internet safe for Texas families,” he said, “but this bill would put the Texas government in charge of content policies.”