Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday signed a bill that would ostensibly ban social media companies from censoring users based on their political viewpoints, The Washington Post reports.
Abbott signed HB20, which bans social media companies with more than 50 million monthly users (i.e. aimed directly at companies like Twitter and Facebook) from censoring users based on "the viewpoint of the user or another person."
The bill allows citizens and the state attorney general to sue companies that they believe unfairly censored users.
The bill would take effect in December.
"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."
Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, told the Washington Post that the law is unlikely to “survive critical scrutiny” and represents “an effort to play for partisan crowd, not to make good policy.”
“Even if it’s struck down, it’s a symptom of a much bigger structural problem we have in the country that politicians think this is how they should be spending their time,” Goldman said.
Adam Kovacevich, the CEO of the Chamber of Progress, which is funded by tech giants like Facebook and Google, said the law likely violates the First Amendment.
“This will certainly be ruled unconstitutional as well, but Republicans won’t pay any price because they view it as good politics,” he said. “It’s going to keep heading into a First Amendment buzz saw.”
Florida’s law blocked:
Florida passed a similar bill aimed at going after social media censorship but it was quickly blocked by a federal judge.
The judge blocked the law pending additional litigation after finding that the law likely violates the First Amendment.
"The legislation now at issue was an effort to rein in social-media providers deemed too large and too liberal," Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his opinion. "Balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not a legitimate governmental interest."