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Relating to complaint procedures and disclosure requirements for social media platforms and to the censorship of users' expressions by an interactive computer service.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
SB 12 would prevent social media platforms with more than 100 million users in a calendar month from censoring a person's viewpoint expressed in a social media post but would not prohibit the censoring of content that is prohibited, such as violent or overtly sexual content or in cases where federal law specifically allows websites and services to censor speech. This applies to Texas residents, users who do business in Texas and users who receive or share content on a social media platform in Texas.
SB 12 would require social media platforms to publicly disclose on their website and in a way easily accessible to the public, accurate information regarding its content management, data management, and business practices, including specific information regarding how they use, place, and target content and services.
Requires social media platforms to publish an acceptable use policy informing users of acceptable content, explaining the steps the social media platform will take to ensure content complies with the policy, and explains the means by which users can notify the platform of content that potentially violates the policy.
Requires social media platforms to publish a quarterly transparency report of the number of times they were alerted to illegal content or activity and their response. Provides process by which users can file complaint about content being removed and the responsibilities of the platform in rectifying the complaint.
The Attorney General may sue a social media platform for violating these terms.
SB 12 would address the free speech impairment created by giant social media companies engaging in viewpoint-based censorship.
Free speech is a vital part of American life and law, and with increasing regularity, has been infringed upon by Big Tech companies. These companies have vast and virtually monopolistic powers and impose substantial control over online public discourse in Texas and throughout the United States.
Ordinarily, we would be sympathetic to an argument that people who are dissatisfied, or who have been de-platformed by mainstream social media sites, start their own competing sites. However, as we have witnessed in recent months, the entrenched Big Tech sites have extensive power to prevent nascent competitors from flourishing or may simply take competitors offline entirely.
The state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that the internet, which is akin to a public utility, does not operate in service to one political ideology at the expense of others. The free exchange of competing ideas must be protected in the virtual town square, just as it is in the physical town square.
For these reasons we strongly support SB 12.