AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is leaning into a rallying cry of conservatives: something must be done to stop social media companies from censoring political views.
Abbott held a news conference Friday regarding his legislative proposal to ban social media platforms from censoring Texans. Abbott says “too many social media sites silence conservative speech and ideas and trample free speech.”
Abbott joined Sen. Bryan Hughes in Tyler, Texas to discuss Senate Bill 12.
“Conservative speech will not be cancelled in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “(This bill) would allow any Texan who has been cancelled, censored or de-platformed to file a lawsuit against Twitter, Facebook or any of these other companies.”
In his bill, Hughes said social media platforms are “akin to common carriers” like cell phone or cable companies. and have “enjoyed governmental support in the United States. He says the bill will protect Texans and allow them to get back online quickly should a social media company punish them for expressing a “viewpoint” based on their religious beliefs or political leanings.
“Just like AT&T can’t cut off my cell service because they don’t like a conversation we’re having, these folks should not be given that power,” Sen. Hughes said. “We can’t let them abuse it like they have been.”
Abbott tweeted that doing so is “un-American, Un-Texan, & soon to be illegal.”
Reason for the conservative social media bill
Conservatives have grown increasingly frustrated with social media companies in the wake of the presidential election.
In light of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol in January, many social media companies including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have banned people who have tried to cast doubt on the 2020 presidential election.
That includes former President Donald Trump who has tried to falsely claim that he won the election and was only denied due to widespread voter fraud. Numerous courts with judges that President Trump appointed failed to find any widespread voter fraud that could have changed the election.
Joshua Tucker, co-director of the Center for Social Media and Politics at New York University, said it’s impossible to know whether one side of the political spectrum is being censored more than the other by social media companies because those companies don’t provide access to outside researchers.
“The data that we need to answer this and many other pressing public policy questions is being produced by Facebook and Google,” he said.
A Pew Research poll conducted in 2020 found that three-quarters of American adults, including 90% of Republicans, believe that it is “very” or “somewhat” likely that social media companies censor political viewpoints.