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Texas Gov Pushes Legislation to Curb Big Tech Content Moderation

Abbott: 'Conservative speech will not be canceled in the state of Texas'

Greg Abbott
• March 5, 2021 2:17 pm

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In a press conference on Friday, Texas governor Greg Abbott (R.) announced S.B. 12, a bill that would prohibit social media companies from "censoring Texans."

"Conservative speech will not be canceled in the state of Texas," said the governor.

The bill's language is similar to that of legislation proposed by Republicans in several states, including Arizona, Minnesota, and Florida, where it was backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R.). The bills have also been backed by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative advocacy group. S.B. 12 would "prohibit social media companies from censoring Texans based upon Texans' viewpoints," Abbott explained.

Since Twitter and Facebook banned then-President Donald Trump from their platforms after the January 6 riots, the issue of social media censorship has caught fire among the conservative base.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, the bills all face similar constitutional concerns. Under the Constitution, private companies can determine what speech they wish to host on their platforms.

The bills may also be unconstitutional under the commerce clause, which bars states from unduly regulating interstate commerce. Additionally, the state bills appear to violate Section 230, the federal law that codifies First Amendment protections for internet companies and expressly preempts contradictory state law.

In the press conference, Republican state senator and bill sponsor Bryan Hughes said, "No one is talking about lewd, lascivious, or obscene speech." The bill's text, however, would ban all moderation of content not explicitly illegal under current law, meaning that companies would be legally required to host obscenity.