Texas Governor, Republican Greg Abbott, recently signed a bill that aims to stop social media companies from banning users or limiting posts based solely on political opinions. Setting the stage for a legal battle with tech companies, Abbott and other Republicans have attempted to lay the groundwork for a rise in lawsuits if conservative points of view are “censored.”   

“It is now law that conservative viewpoints in Texas cannot be banned on social media,” Abbott said. 

Republicans have continued to claim that social media companies are censoring them based on their political affiliation. These companies, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, deny such accusations. 

This brings up questions about how other states may react to this measure and how it will impact user behavior as it pertains to expressing political opinions on social platforms. 

 

Two Sides To The Story

It’s important to note that social platforms are owned by private entities that require certain user agreements (which can be updated regularly), and users must agree to these terms to use each platform. After the 2016 election and the involvement of Russian bots, as well as the emergence of false information spread about the 2020 election and COVID-19 conspiracy theories, social media platforms have tightened their belt on what could be posted publicly in an attempt to avoid liability. 

According to the platforms, it’s not so much that platforms are censoring political ideology as much as eliminating false information, misdirections, and overt lies that could undermine important political systems and possibly get someone hurt. What is being monitored and managed is the poor behavior and false rhetoric that directly misleads the public. Platforms block the user from posting such information because of the possible dangers.   

Abbott claims it’s a direct attack on conservatives specifically. But social media companies are arguing that the bill, in itself, is an act of misinformation.  Yet the accusations are out there, and other Republicans are likely to take up similar causes in the near future.   

This bill is not exactly the first of its kind; in fact, it resembles a similar effort in Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a similar bill that would hinder social media companies from suspending political candidates in the run-up to elections. That bill was struck down, and as a result, it’s expected the Texas bill will suffer the same fate.

According to Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, the Texas law does not “survive critical scrutiny” and will most likely not hold up in court.  

 

Ruining It For The Rest of Us?

Even if such social media “censorship” laws do not hold up in the courts, enough conflict has already been stirred to create speculation and criticism. Furthermore, as more people fear censorship based on the information they receive from lawmakers who support this bill, they will feel less confident about their own opinions and affiliations with certain identities as they associate with political parties. 

It’s a slippery slope in which all social media users become entangled when the gates are opened to doubt and fear. 

 

In Closing

Though these bills have the likelihood of being rejected by courts and social media companies are preparing to face a potential legal battle, the seeds of concern have already been sown. With social media platforms stuck in the middle of political conflicts among users, there doesn’t seem to be a smooth resolution on the horizon – at least not in the near future. We will be keeping a close eye on these legal battles because they are closer to all users than one may initially think.    

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott Signs Bill Into Law To Combat Social Media Censorship

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