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Texas Law Would Allow Users to Sue Social Media Companies Over Account Bans

Governor Greg Abbott has proposed a law that would allow users to sue social media companies that prevent them from using their accounts. The proposal comes after the Attorney General’s office was informed about such action by users.

The new law, passed as HB 20 in early September, prohibits censoring content based on “the viewpoint of the user or another person”. The bill is aimed at platforms with at least 50 million monthly users in the United States, including Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., and Google’s YouTube, among others.

HB 20 also mandates transparency reports comparable to those provided by Facebook, Google, and other big web corporations, as well as the disclosure of how social media sites promote and censor material. The rule requires platforms to examine illegal content within 48 hours after being contacted, a measure that is similar to at least one proposal in the US Congress. (However, unlike Congress, a state legislature cannot overrule Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which oversees much of the moderation of illegal information on the internet.)

The law also includes a section that specifically targets email platforms, making it illegal to “intentionally obstruct the transmission of another person’s electronic mail message based on the content of the message” unless the company believes the message contains malicious code, obscenity, illegal content, or violates an existing Texas anti-spam law.

However, the rule’s future is dubious. It will almost certainly face legal challenges, and unlike the recent Texas abortion ban, it is not designed to avoid judicial review. In June, a judge ruled that Florida’s social media statute was unconstitutional because it “forces providers to host speech that violates their standards.”

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