Industry groups to fight Texas crackdown on 'censorship' of conservatives

Tech trade groups representing Facebook, Twitter and Google are vowing to fight what Texas is labeling as a crackdown on social media “censorship” of conservatives.

Under legislation signed Thursday by Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottCalifornia dreaming did not become reality for Republicans Judge schedules Oct. 1 hearing on DOJ request to halt Texas abortion law 24 Democratic AGs back Biden bid to block Texas abortion law MORE (R), social media companies with more than 50 million monthly users are forbidden from banning users based on their political views.

The sites are required to implement a complaint and appeals process for the content they remove, in which they provide a reason that content was removed and a review of their decision. The measure also bans email service providers from impending transmission of emails based on content.

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Steve DelBianco, president and CEO of NetChoice, a coalition supporting online businesses, said in a statement that the bill “clearly violates” the First Amendment.

“This law essentially creates a new Fairness Doctrine for the internet which will only make it harder for conservatives to share their news and views online,” he said.

The Fairness Doctrine was a Federal Communications Commission policy created in 1949 that required broadcasters to present issues with a balanced view. The policy was eliminated in 1987. 

Social media censorship has been a hot-button issue for conservatives, particularly in the wake of former President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE’s removal from major social media platforms following the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

In a statement, Abbott said there is a “dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas.”

Florida passed a similar law in April, which fines companies $250,000 a day for banning statewide politicians from their platforms and $25,000 a day for other politicians.

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A federal judge blocked that law in June, after NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) successfully challenged it. That ruling is now on appeal.

DelBianco said the same outcome will almost “certainly occur in Texas.”

Tech groups warned that Texas’s intentions behind the law could backfire and lead to more issues.

Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber of Progress, said in a statement that the law would allow more hate speech to exist online.

“When you force social media platforms to pull their referees, the bad guys are going to throw more fouls,” Kovacevich said.

CCIA President Matt Schruers said the law would “prevent digital services from protecting their law-abiding users in Texas by fighting malicious online actors.”

“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,” Schruers said.