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Texas passes law to regulate content moderation on social media

The state of Texas has passed a new law, one that would regulate content moderation on social media. Governor Greg Abbott has reportedly signed a bill which will prevent banning, demonetizing, or otherwise restricting content based on another user or person’s “viewpoint.”

Increase Transparency

The legislation is named HB 20, and also directs social media companies to provide a disclosure about how they moderate and promote content. Additionally, mandatory transparency reports have also been demanded from web and social media biggies, including Google and Facebook. Moreover, if any social media service is notified of illegal content on their platform, then they are required to evaluate them within 48 hours.

Texas law social media

Image Credits: Pocket Lint

Companies that are found to be in contravention of the new law may face civil lawsuits, or legal action at the hands of the state’s attorney general. Interestingly, the legislation applies only to those web services which have amassed more than 50 million active users, and which allow people to communicate with others for the chief purpose of sharing “information, comments, messages, or images.” Entertainment and news sites, as well as internet service providers, have not been included in the list, which nevertheless contains the names of many well known social media biggies.

Separate Section For Emails

A separate section in the bill pertains to email platforms, which have now been barred from “intentionally impeding the transmission” of a user’s email message, based on the content present inside the message. An exception has been granted for instances where the company concerned has reason to believe that the message contains illegal content, obscenity, materials that violate an existing anti-spasm law in the state, or malicious code.

This new law comes as the latest effort at the hands of the Republicans to prevent social media and web firms from taking down lawful but objectionable content, something which has been branded by conservative lawmakers as an “anti-censorship battle.” A similar law was recently passed by Florida.

A Fate That’s Already Decided?

The Texas law is likely to face legal opposition at the hands of critics, much like how a judge blocked the social media law by Florida back in June, on grounds of it “compelling providers to host speech that violates their standards.”

In fact, one of the plaintiffs against the Florida law, NetChoice, has already come forward to speak on the new law, saying since it has flaws similar to those in the Florida law, it will most likely meet a similar fate.

 

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