Texas Legislators Approve Bill Making It Easier To Sue Companies For Policies Protecting Users Online

BY Heather Greenfield
August 30, 2021

Washington — In a special session today, the Texas House passed a bill that would require companies to follow new guidance for enforcing content moderation policies. 

Passage of the law comes after a federal judge ruled in favor of CCIA’s challenge to a similar Florida law, blocking it temporarily and noting the Florida law likely violated federal law and the First Amendment. That ruling is now on appeal. 

Online platforms enforce a range of policies surrounding acceptable content that users agree to when they sign up to use a service, and have a First Amendment right to do so.

The legislation has been backed by Governor Abbott, who has been a vocal proponent of punishing technology companies throughout this legislative session. If enacted, the bill could disincentivize or even penalize companies for removing dangerous content, such as material from foreign extremists or misinformation. The bill also sets a dangerous precedent by prohibiting “censoring” based on “viewpoint” expressed on the service “or through any other medium”. Compelling private companies to host foreign disinformation or pro-Taliban extremist content runs counter to the First Amendment.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated for free speech online for more than 25 years. This includes the First Amendment right for private companies to determine what material is appropriate for their communities.

The following can be attributed to CCIA President Matt Schruers:

“Digital services have a First Amendment right to refuse to host users that promote suicide and self-harm, or that peddle racism and hate, for example.  This bill disagrees, and would give foreign extremists trafficking in vicious propaganda a platform to spread lies that put Americans at risk.  Leading technology providers don’t want that, and nor do Texans.”

 

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