Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Thursday authored by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, and seeks to stop social media companies from censoring Texans based on the views they share.

House Bill 20, also known as the Freedom from Censorship Act, prevents social media companies with over 50 million monthly users from banning users based on their political viewpoints.

Hughes, who also introduced a similar bill during the regular legislative session, and state Rep. Briscoe Cain authored HB 20 and stood alongside Abbott as he signed the bill into law.

“We will always defend the freedom of speech in Texas, which is why I am proud to sign House Bill 20 into law to protect first amendment rights in the Lone Star State,” Abbott said. “Social media websites have become our modern-day public square. They are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely — but there is a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas. That is wrong, and we will not allow it in Texas. I thank Sen. Bryan Hughes, Rep. Briscoe Cain and the Texas Legislature for ensuring that House Bill 20 reached my desk during the second special session.”

Hughes said he carried the bill regarding social media censorship for three consecutive legislative sessions. Abbott made social media censorship legislation a priority for the second special legislative session in August.

“Texans have the right to free speech, and the Lone Star state will vigorously defend that right,” Hughes said in a statement.

HB 20 requires these social media companies to have consumer protection disclosures and processes concerning content guidelines.

Sites like Twitter, Instagram and YouTube would have to share their content management and moderation policies in addition to implementing a complaint and appeals process for any content that is removed. A reason must be provided for the removal and the site’s decision must also be reviewed, according to the legislation.

Hughes and Abbott came to Tyler in March to discuss the similar bill Hughes authored, Senate Bill 12, to stop social media censorship.

During a news conference at the Plaza Tower, Abbott and Hughes noted social media platforms have become the modern-day town square, where people can share their opinions and debate.

Hughes said some people are seeking to censor the “town square” and enforce silence.

“If you have a viewpoint different from theirs, they want to shut you up. That’s not the American way and that is not the Texas way,” Hughes said in March. “So they enforce that silence for people that don’t agree with their agenda on religion or on politics or on freedom.”

Illegal content must be reviewed and taken down within 48 hours, and email service providers cannot hinder the sending of email messages based on content, HB 20 states.

 
 

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Multimedia Journalist

I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.