Arlington representative files bill to hold social media companies liable for censorship charges

Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, recently filed House Bill 2965 in the Texas Legislature to hold social media companies with over one million users liable for censorship.    

Under this bill, which was filed March 5, a claimant shall be awarded with compensatory and exemplary damages.  

Tinderholt said in an email that he has felt troubled watching censorious activity carried out by social media companies with leadership who have openly left-wing views. 

The bill, he said, would allow Texans to sue social media companies if their speech is censored, restricted or suppressed with reasons other than those covered by Section 230.  

Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act of 1996 gives providers and users protection for “good samaritan” blocking and screening of material that may be considered obscene, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected, according to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.  

Communications lecturer Amanda Jordan, who teaches Strategic Social Media Communication, said when some social media platforms ban or label something as fake news, it’s more of a business decision than anything else. 

It’s not necessarily that social media platforms skew more left or right, but rather the community you follow on the platform determines what kind of information you get, Jordan said. 

Jordan said people tend to get reactionary when content gets taken down or flagged for posting fake information. 

“It’s almost a defensive reaction to say, ‘Oh, it’s, you know, their liberal bias policy or their conservative bias policy,’” she said. 

Social media companies have the rights to monitor content on their platforms as they see fit, she said.  

In recent years, social media sites have become the main source of news for many Americans, and politicians have also moved their platforms online. 

Dustin Harp, communication assistant professor and Women and Gender Studies program director, said the 2016 election is an example where politicians started using social media to get their message across.  

But tweets from former President Donald Trump have been at the center of controversy.  

Twitter labeled many of Trump’s tweets regarding voter fraud after the 2020 presidential election as “might be misleading,” and in some cases they were labeled false. Various government officials, including the U.S. Justice Department, have said they have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.  

Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have banned Trump on their sites. But Tinderholt disagrees with their actions, stating that he is all for censoring illegal material online, but it is another story when social media platforms only censor political viewpoints and certain people. 

HB 2965 has been assigned to the House State Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 12, a similar bill seeking to ban social media companies from censoring political views, was approved by the Senate on April 1.

@Chongyang206

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