After being halted by Democrat lawmakers’ boycott of the state legislature earlier this year, a bill aimed at reining in Big Tech censorship introduced by Republican lawmakers in Texas looks set to pass.
The bill declares that “social media platforms function as common carriers, are affected with a public interest, are central public forums for public debate, and have enjoyed governmental support in the United States,” and that “social media platforms with the largest number of users are common carriers by virtue of their market dominance.” WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 23: With an image of himself on a screen in the background, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg testified about Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency Libra, how his company will handle false and misleading information by political leaders during the 2020 campaign and how it handles its users’ data and privacy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Jack Dorsey testifies remotely AUSTIN, TX – MAY 24: Texas Governor Greg Abbott holds a roundtable discussion with victims, family, and friends affected by the Santa Fe, Texas school shooting at the state capital on May 24, 2018 in Austin, Texas. Representatives from Sutherland Springs, Alpine, and Killeen were also invited and address the governor. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images) The law contains strong transparency mandates for social media companies, requiring them to disclose how and why they moderate content, and how and why they prioritize certain types of content, including their own, in user newsfeeds. It also prohibits censorship on the basis of political viewpoint and allows citizens of Texas to sue tech companies that wrongfully terminate their accounts or censor them.
The Texas attorney general will also be empowered to sue tech companies on behalf of groups of users.
The common carrier language introduces a tougher and older legal standard than Florida’s tech censorship law, which was shot down by a Bill Clinton-appointed federal judge shortly after it was passed. It is one of the approaches suggested by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his opinion on tech censorship, which he gave earlier this year.
The law has caused alarm amongst Big Tech’s paid advocates. NetChoice, the industry trade group that represents Google, Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, Amazon, and other companies known for engaging in political censorship, has been furiously condemning the law, to no avail. Texas House Democrats also oppose the bill, and have attempted to add amendments that would allow tech companies to censor “hate speech” and “vaccine disinformation,” but were defeated. Adam Kovacevich, the former top Google employee who now heads the Big Tech advocacy group Chamber of Progress, said the law would lead to more “hate speech” online. Kovacevich was embroiled in scandal during his time at Google for describing the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as a “sideshow circus” while telling Google employees that the tech giant planned to “steer” the conservative movement using strategic political donations.
The bill has passed the Texas Senate, and its companion bill is likely to pass the House. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has publicly supported the law and is likely to sign it once it reaches his desk. Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.
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