Texas lawmakers shredded constitution to punish social media companies

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In the thicket of bad laws produced by Texas lawmakers this year, it’s easy for HB 20 to be overlooked.

As we focus on voter suppression, the practical ban on abortion, the carrying of unlicensed firearms, and the mandate that teachers must provide patriotic and non-critical assessments of state history- United, we can lose sight of how our elected leaders shredded the Constitution just to make an example of social media companies.

The Freedom from Online Censorship Act, enacted last Thursday by Governor Greg Abbott, prevents digital companies from banning or restricting a user based on that person’s ‘point of view’ or how that point of view is expressed .

“Freedom of speech is under threat in Texas,” Abbott said at the signing ceremony last week. “There is a dangerous movement on the part of some social media companies to silence conservative ideas and values. “

Abbott said the law “fights political censorship of Big Tech” and allows Texans who have been “wrongly misrepresented or restricted to be able to bring complaints to return to the site.”

Just so there is no misunderstanding, the passage of this bill is outright a GOP grassroots message, a theatrical display of retaliation against Twitter and Facebook for banning former President Donald Trump. It’s also part of Abbott’s continued attempt to follow Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed a similar bill in May.

Hours before the Florida law came into effect, a federal judge blocked it. Texas law could point to a similar fate.

HB 20 is uncomfortable on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start.

Consider Abbott’s claim that social media companies practice “censorship.”

Few words in our society are misused as frequently as “censorship,” which tends to spread whenever an artist is not as aired on the radio as they would like.

Censorship occurs when a government entity restricts the free expression of private citizens. This does not apply to cases where private social media companies decide they want to protect their users from rhetoric they see as harmful. It is the free market that regulates itself, a concept the Conservatives still claim to cherish.

“It’s Orwellian to define censorship the way these bills do,” said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association.

CCIA and NetChoice, two trade associations in the tech industry, were co-plaintiffs in the Florida social media lawsuit. They are in the process of determining how they want to respond to Texas law.

“When these companies live up to their commitments to protect users from hate speech, foreign extremism, government disinformation efforts, or people encouraging your children to eat detergent pods, suggest that the censorship defies reason,” he said. Schruers said.

Some political conservatives argue that social media platforms are utilities, just like power or water companies. This is an argument that does not stand up to scrutiny.

Utilities build their infrastructure on government concessions, such as rights of way and easements. In return, they bear the responsibility of serving everyone.

Social media businesses don’t – and shouldn’t – work that way. They create a platform for people to communicate with each other and should reserve the right to bounce someone who abuses this privilege, in the same way that a nightclub should have the right to bounce a customer. drunk who yells racist insults at other customers.

If you are not happy with this policy, you can find another digital platform to use, just as a club lover might find a different place to visit.

Also consider the implications of the vague language of Texas law, which says you cannot be limited by a platform for your “point of view.”

What does this mean exactly? Being a member of the Ku Klux Klan is a point of view. Being anti-Semitic is a point of view. Wanting to blow up buildings in the name of religious jihad is one point of view. Should these views be protected on social media?

“Forcing companies to welcome this speech is, in my opinion, neither good policy nor good policy,” Schruers said.

There’s also the fact that the regulation of interstate commerce is the purview of the federal government, and states like Texas and Florida don’t have to regulate the practices of big tech companies that aren’t even based in their offices. States.

There is also the real world component to consider. Twitter and Facebook are full of conservative voices. Conservatives are not banned because of their political views. In a few cases, politicians across the political spectrum have faced restrictions, but this is because they have propagated lies or encouraged dangerous behavior.

Preventing companies from controlling this type of content is the real act of censorship.

ggarcia@express-news.net | Twitter: @ gilgamesh470


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