Washington — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed an unconstitutional bill that seeks to punish social media companies for following policies that protect internet users from dangerous content online. The legislation, which undermines First Amendment rights, would encourage lawsuits when content from anyone from those engaged in online scams to nefarious foreign actors is removed.
The bill also sets a dangerous precedent by prohibiting “censoring” based on “viewpoint” expressed on the service “or through any other medium.” This would compel private companies to host foreign disinformation or pro-Taliban extremist content or to risk being sued.
The legislation comes just two months after a federal judge in Florida ruled in favor of the Computer & Communications Industry Association after CCIA filed a lawsuit to block a similar law in Florida. That judge said the Florida law likely violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law. That ruling is now on appeal.
CCIA has advocated for free speech online for more than 25 years. This includes the First Amendment right for private companies to determine what material is appropriate for their communities.
The following can be attributed to CCIA President Matt Schruers:
“This ill-advised and clearly unconstitutional legislation would prevent digital services from protecting their law-abiding users in Texas by fighting malicious online actors. It could compel platforms to carry all manner of dangerous content – from Nazi party political speech to extremist messages from the Taliban. Its proponents claim this law protects free speech, but compelling private companies to host extremist content couldn’t be further from what the Founders intended.”