The Texas state Senate passed a bill Thursday forbidding social media companies from discriminating against users based on their political viewpoints or locations within the state.
Senate Bill 12 would allow Texans who are wrongfully suspended or blocked for religious or political views on a social media platform, such as Facebook and Twitter, to get back on the site, the Washington Examiner reported.
It calls for social media companies to be transparent about how they moderate content on their websites, give frequent updates on what content is removed and create an appeals process when a user’s content is removed.
The bill would apply to social media companies with at least 100 million monthly viewers, so platforms such as Parler and Gab will not be among those included.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will also be given the ability to sue any social media company that violates the new legislation.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, who authored the bill that was introduced at the beginning of March, announced the approval of the legislation in a statement on Twitter.
“I think we all have to acknowledge the social media companies are the new town square and a small group of people in San Francisco can’t dictate free speech for the rest of us,” Hughes said.
“It needs to be an open exchange of ideas.”
After several hours of debate, Senate Bill 7 (Election Integrity) and Senate Bill 12 (Social Media Censorship) fully passed the Texas Senate early this morning. #txlege #SB12 #SB7 @Scott_SanfordTX @BriscoeCain pic.twitter.com/HdQPc2FBy7
— Senator Bryan Hughes (@SenBryanHughes) April 1, 2021
The bill will be passed to the state House of Representatives for consideration in the upcoming weeks.
If the bill is passed into law, First Amendment advocates expect it to be challenged in court, according to the Examiner.
Conservative lawyers are concerned that the bill will give major social media platforms an incentive to change their content guidelines and rules to avoid a lawsuit.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the bill would “prevent social media platforms from canceling conservative speech” when he announced his support for it.
“Too many social media sites silence conservative speech and ideas and trample free speech,” Abbott tweeted.
I am joining @SenBryanHughes to announce a bill prohibiting social media companies from censoring viewpoints.
Too many social media sites silence conservative speech and ideas and trample free speech.
It’s un-American, Un-Texan, & soon to be illegal.https://t.co/zSdirRa1pj
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 5, 2021
He added in a news release, “America was built on freedom of speech and healthy public debate, and efforts to silence conservative viewpoints on social media are wrong and weaken public discourse.”
Calls to reel in social media censorship online were increased after former President Donald Trump was kicked off social media platforms following the incursion into the Capitol on Jan. 6.
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