Texas Governor Greg Abbot has been hyping a piece of legislation to “ban” tech censorship in Texas. The bill is Senate Bill 12, which was introduced on March 1st. The bill is a long shot that would probably never be upheld in the courts.
Senate Bill 12 would attempt to do two things. First, it would declare social media websites to be “public forums,” giving Americans the legal protections they already enjoy in a public forum. Unfortunately, many lawsuits have already been filed against social media companies arguing that they constitute a “public forum.” So far, these have not been successful.
Section 2 of the bill amends a state law concerning the “harmful use of a computer” to include “block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression.”
Once again, social media companies have already been sued for this, and the courts in California have shut them down. Jared Taylor of American Renaissance even won a victory against Twitter in San Francisco County’s Superior Court in California. The judge agreed with Taylor’s suit that Twitter engaged in unfair business practices. However, the Court of Appeals of the State of California, First Appellate District, immediately reversed the Superior Court judge’s decision.
Senate Bill 12 even contains language conceding that parts of this bill are likely to be nullified in the courts:
“Because this Act has been enacted amid uncertainty about the application of the United States Constitution and relevant federal statutes … if any application of any provision of this Act is found by a court to be unconstitutional or invalid, on any ground for any reason whatsoever, the remaining application of that provision to other persons and circumstances shall be severed and may not be affected.”
On March 5th, Greg Abbott was part of a press conference to promote Senate Bill 12. He aggressively depicted himself as a champion of free speech.
“There is a dangerous movement that is spreading across the country to try to silence conservative ideas, religious beliefs. Big tech’s efforts to silence conservative viewpoints is un-American, un-Texan, and it is unacceptable, and pretty soon it’s going to be against the law in the state of Texas.” Greg Abbott, March 5th
On the evening of March 10th, Greg Abbott posted a video message on Twitter publicly embracing online censorship, saying “platforms like Gab have no place in Texas.”
Abbott denounced the free speech alternative social media site as “anti-Semitic” while sitting in front of an Israeli flag. Abbot made the video to promote House Bill 3257. The bill would create a state commission to investigate “rhetorical expressions of anti-Semitism.” The bill would divert money from the Texas Historical Commission, used to preserve historical sites, into a new “commission on anti-Semitism.”
Abbott wants tax-payer-funded investigations of speech that is protected by the first amendment. He specifically targeted a free-speech social media website for this state-sponsored harassment. This bill appears to be an attempt to place a “chilling effect” on the first amendment and stifle freedom of speech.
The contrast between the March 5th and March 10th statements by Greg Abbott shows that he is willing to say anything and should be considered wildly untrustworthy on the issue of free speech and censorship.
The term “anti-Semitic” is often used as disingenuous name-calling by the left to shut down political opposition. Much like “racist, homophobe, transphobe, sexist, xenophobe, bigot, ect.”
Anti-Semitic platforms do not represent Texas values.
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) March 11, 2021