TEXARKANA, Texas (KTBS) — The Lone Star state is taking aim at social media companies.
An East Texas lawmaker authored a bill to prohibit big tech companies from censoring Texans. Nearly two dozen states have proposed similar legislation.
“The new town square, it’s social media. Like it or not, that’s where people go to express views and have debates,” said state Sen. Bryan Hughes, (R-Mineola).
Hughes has proposed legislation to ban social media platforms from what he believes is censorship of Texans online. The new bill would allow any Texan who believes they have been canceled, censored or de-platformed to file a lawsuit against companies like Twitter and Facebook.
“A few people in San Francisco that control these social media companies, these tech giants. They want to be the gatekeepers for free speech. We can’t let any small elite group do that,” said Hughes.
Jeff Easterling has worked more than 30 years with radio and television stations. He’s also been administering numerous social media pages in the Texarkana area, such as Texarkana Cheers and Jeers, Bowie County News and Reviews and many more.
“There’s more phones now than there are mail boxes in the United States of America, so social media is where the people are,” said Easterling.
Easterling said he’s for community standards and taking a stand against bullying online.
However, he’s against people being censored for expressing their political views, which he says happens when outside fact-checkers get involved.
“To judge whether my story should be there, or your story should be there, or whether their story should be there. I’m kind of against that, but as far as, the community standards, they’ve stepped in, there’s way too much social media bullying,” said Easterling.
Some experts have raised doubts about whether Senate Bill 12 would hold up in court. If the bill is signed into law, Hughes has acknowledged that it would almost certainly be challenged in court, but he believes all viewpoints need to be protected.
“We’re going to move it quickly to give Texans a chance to fight back when they get knocked off line, when they get punished just because they exercise their free speech. This is a big deal and Texas is leading the nation on this,” said Hughes.
In the past, Facebook and other social media companies have said they have the right to monitor and ban users on their platforms when those users post speech that promotes violence.
The Texas Senate has given initial approval of Senate Bill 12. It’s now awaiting action in the Texas House of Representatives.
Gov. Greg Abbott is hoping to sign it into law by Sept. 1. A similar measure was introduced two years ago, but failed to pass.
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