Texas May Curb Social Media Moderation of Political Content

Under a proposed law awaiting the review of Governor Greg Abbott, Texas would prevent large social media networks from censoring users and content based on politics or geographical location. The bill applies only to networks with more than 50 million users, which would cover Facebook and Twitter. Actions targeted by the bill include banning or blocking users and removing their posts. Both chambers of the Texas state legislature have approved the bill.

The bill did not pass through the legislature when it was first introduced in a special session during the first half of 2021. However, Republicans tried again in a second special session and succeeded this time. Some legal observers expect that the bill will face constitutional challenges. It could comprise an invalid government restraint on speech under the First Amendment. (Editorial and moderation decisions by social media networks typically are considered protected speech.)

This is not the first state law designed to prevent social media networks from censoring users and content based on political viewpoints. Florida enacted a state law in May that was designed to impose fines on social media networks that knowingly deplatform political candidates. A federal district court judge in Florida struck down the law on constitutional grounds a month later. This supports the view that the Texas law also may not survive a constitutional challenge.

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