A pair of tech industry groups are suing Texas over a controversial new social media law aimed at reducing anti-conservative bias.
HB 20, signed into law earlier this month, made Texas the latest red state to go after social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for alleged anti-conservative bias and censorship. The law bars platforms with more than 50 million monthly users from banning content based on user viewpoints.
NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association claim the law will force platforms to carry objectionable content they would otherwise screen out.
“Allowing HB 20 to take effect will inflict significant harm on Texans by threatening the safety of users, creators, and businesses that use these websites to reach audiences in a family-friendly way,” said Steve DelBianco, president and CEO of NetChoice. “No American should ever be forced to navigate through harmful and offensive images, videos and posts.”
Legal experts have also questioned the constitutionality of the Texas law and a similar one passed in Florida, on the grounds that private companies are not subject to the First Amendment's free speech protections.
DelBianco said the Texas state government is free to create a digital public town hall website of its own where citizens could post images, video, and messages fully protected by the First Amendment. That, he said, would allow the public free expression without doing so at the expense of private businesses such as the social media giants.
Florida's law, passed last month, was blocked by a federal judge after NetChoice and CCIA filed a lawsuit against it. Other Republican-led states, such as Utah and North Dakota, are also pushing for laws that would reduce censorship online.
The Texas bill would also require social media companies to be transparent about content moderation policies, publish reports about content they remove, and create appeals processes for users who disagree with content moderation decisions.
Conservatives claim their online speech is being stifled after former President Donald Trump was banned from most major platforms following the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
However, NetChoice General Counsel Carl Szabo, who considers himself conservative, says the Texas-style laws could backfire and result in less conservative speech and several onerous lawsuits.
“Texas HB 20 is an example of lawmakers saying this law protects free expression and free enterprise when it actually moves us closer to state-run media and state-run internet,” Szabo said. “This is exactly why our Founders created the First Amendment — to protect us from the government telling us what we can and cannot say.”
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Original Author: Nihal Krishan
Original Location: Tech groups sue Texas over new social media law