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Texas lawmakers set to push back on social media censorship during Special Session

Posted at 7:23 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 20:39:19-04

AUSTIN — After a failed attempt to send a social media censorship bill to the governor's desk, Texas GOP lawmakers get another shot this month during the Special Session. But many experts expect it to not hold up in a court of law.

"What the governor would like to see happen is that social media companies can be held accountable," Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. "If it's the case they ban a particular member of legislature or a politician from social media."

Senate Bill 12 failed to make it onto the House floor floor vote, despite passing the Senate on April 1. The bill would ban social media sites, like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to name a few, from censoring content from Texans based on their online viewpoints.

Gov. Greg Abbott said in a press release Tuesday the law will also provide "a legal remedy for those wrongfully excluded from a platform." Experts like Rottinghaus see Texas Republicans wading into constitutional conflict by forcing government compliance on privately held companies.

"This is a challenging way to approach the First Amendment," Rottinghaus said. "It's unlikely this will survive a kind of court-based legal scrutiny because typically it's the case that these actions are taken under the guise of the First Amendment."

Similar laws in other states against tech giants regulating free speech have not made it far from the state legislature. In fact, a federal judge blocked a Florida law limiting content moderation last week.

Texas GOP lawmakers could face the same situation soon if they gather enough votes during the Special Session, but Rottinghaus said the governor and state Republicans are trying to make a point.

"It's a messaging bill as much as anything," Rottinhaus said. "Ultimately, it's a really difficult bill to pass and to have enacted into law."