HB 20 makes it possible for any social media platform with more than 50 million monthly active users (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) to regulate, restrict, prevent the publication or duplication, equal access or visibility of the Refuse to speak up.” Additionally, Texans can take legal action against these companies for filtering content that expresses their point of view.
“Freedom of speech is under attack in Texas. It prevents social media companies from banning users based on users’ political views,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a video posted on his Facebook page Sept. 9.
Proponents say this bill was the result of major social media platforms politically discriminating against conservative users, such as removing former President Donald Trump’s account from Twitter.
“I can see how easily conservatives would feel like they were really being targeted. But the fact is, the proof is in the pudding,” said Dr. Eddy Carder, Assistant Professor of Constitutional Law and Philosophy at Prairie View A&M University.
He continued, “Conservatives remain in control of Texas and national politics. While they feel like they’re being targeted, that generally doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s an argument that maybe the isolation doesn’t negatively impact the conservative perspective as they would like us to believe.”
Proponents of the bill have used the notion of “preserving freedom of expression” as a basis for their argument.
“Certainly we have the right to free speech, but it is not an absolutely unlimited right,” said Dr. carders “The restrictions and restrictions on speech are intended to protect certain groups from ideologies, movements and perspectives that would endanger them.”
Governor Abbott signed the controversial law into law on September 9th. It was immediately challenged by NetChoice and CCIA (Computer and Communications Industry Association) – trade organizations representing a range of technology companies. A US district judge issued a restraining order in December. It was then overturned by an appeals court on May 11, prompting industry groups to take the case to the US Supreme Court.
Organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP have written “Friends of the Court” briefs and expressed their opposition. They say HB 20 would allow dangerous content such as hate speech, foreign propaganda and misinformation to thrive online.
“Without that kind of hate speech, you don’t end up with people like the mass shooter in Buffalo, New York,” said Dr. James Dixon, President of the Houston Branch of the NAACP. “How do you bring up an 18-year-old with that level and level of hate? That’s when you begin to understand how powerful these words and these messages are. The manifestation of what is happening in our nation is too egregious for us to ignore. “
In the case of the mass shooting in Buffalo earlier this month, critics say, under that legislation, Twitch would not have been able to interrupt the 18-year-old white gunman’s live stream of the horrific killings. It took two minutes for the video to be taken down on the social media site.
“The long-term implications are … we continue to raise new generations of racists who are being indoctrinated,” said Dr. dixon “Remember, white supremacy is a religion. We get people who are religiously committed to these dark and deadly values and who feel loyal by carrying out the tasks of destruction, attack and violence. That is what produces this.”
The 11th Circuit Court ruled Monday that social media platforms are considered private entities, meaning their actions are protected under the First Amendment and they can filter content as they see fit. dr Carder says this Florida law decision could play a role in how the Supreme Court decides the fate of HB 20.
“In fact, we have been informed that Florida attorneys have already submitted the records of this court decision to the Supreme Court for review,” he said.
Texas has until Wednesday to respond to the request for a restraining order. What SCOTUS then decides is unclear.
“The challenge is that the recent decision on abortion written and leaked by Justice (Samuel) Alito suggests that he really leans towards an extremely conservative position,” said Dr. carders “Will he decide differently? Will the court see it differently? That remains to be seen.”
ABC13 reached out to Gov. Abbott’s office, the Texas Attorney’s Office and all of the sponsors of the bill, but received no response.
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https://abc13.com/hb-20-censorship-law-social-media/11889593/ Texas’ controversial social media censorship law awaits its fate in the US Supreme Court