LEGAL CORRESPONDENT – MANINI KAUR
REVIEWER: Arfeen Sayyed
September 10, 2021: Texas' governor has approved a measure preventing social media firms from "de platforming" individuals based on their political beliefs.
The bill, known as HB 20, forbids social media companies from blocking, demonetizing, or otherwise limiting material based on "the perspective of the user or another person," regardless of whether that position is stated on the site.
HB 20 also demands transparency reports similar to those issued by Facebook, Google, and other big online businesses, requiring social media platforms to explain how they promote and control material. The rule mandates that if platforms are alerted of unlawful content, they must review it within 48 hours, an approach that is similar to at least one proposal in the US Congress. (However, unlike Congress, a state legislature cannot override Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which regulates most of the internet moderation of unlawful information.) Separately, social media firms must review illegal information within 48 hours of being alerted of it, according to a second clause.
The law covers web services with more than 50 million active users that allow people to "communicate with other users for the primary purpose of posting information, comments, messages, or images," but not internet service providers or news or entertainment websites.
The law also includes a section aimed specifically at email platforms, making it illegal to “intentionally obstruct the transmission of another person's electronic mail message based on the content of the message” unless the company believes the message contains malicious code, obscenity, illegal content, or violates an existing Texas anti-spam law.
The Texas bill is one of the numerous Republican attempts to intimidate online firms into deleting unpleasant but legal information, a struggle that conservative lawmakers have portrayed as an anti-censorship crusade against corporations that are similar to phone companies or other communications utilities. It is based on a similar Florida legislation that covers social media, although it lacks some of the more unique aspects of that law, such as safeguards for political candidates and an exemption for corporations who run a theme park.
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