Two days ago, the Supreme Court passed a Texas law banning abortions as early as six weeks. As if that wasn’t enough questionable behaviour from the Lone Star state, it is now on a mission to pass another controversial law, one that would ban social media companies with more than 50 million users from censoring users and content based on political views or geographic location.
In other words, while it’s not been openly stated and probably won’t until the law is actually passed, the state of Texas—which remains a majority Republican state as of 2021—wants to limit social media giants’ power when it comes to moderating conservatives and their consistent violence-inciting blabberings. Just imagine the countless other messes we would have witnessed if President Trump had not been permanently suspended from Twitter.
Although the bill initially failed in a special session earlier this year when Democrats fled the state to stall the passage of many controversial partisan bills, including the abortion ban mentioned above, it was then revived in July in a second special session. The bill was widely opposed by Democrats, but many did not attend the vote as they protested other controversial measures led by Republicans.
The bill would make it unlawful for social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to conduct moderation actions such as banning, deplatforming, or demonetising users and removing posts. The Texas attorney general would be allowed to file suit against any company that violates a provision of the bill. If upheld in court, the attorney general could recoup “reasonable” attorney’s fees and investigative costs. According to The Verge, Texas is in fact the second state to push through a bill aimed at combating the alleged censorship of conservatives online.
In May, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a similar measure that would fine platforms for banning political candidates. The law was blocked by a Florida US District Court judge in June. The judge wrote that much of the bill’s text was “wholly at odds with accepted constitutional principles.” And according to experts, the Texas bill could face a similar fate. “While the language in Texas’ bill is different, the outcome will be the same because the First Amendment protects against government intrusion into editorial discretion,” Ari Cohn, TechFreedom free speech counsel, said in a statement Wednesday.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the Senate Bill 12 (also called the ‘censorship’ bill) but said in a statement that the platform enforces “the Twitter Rules judiciously and impartially for everyone on our service—regardless of ideology or political affiliation—and our policies help us to protect the diversity and health of the public conversation.”
So far, both Texas’ House and Senate have approved the bill, sending it to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk—a well-known Republican.
As the never-ending Republican-led war on critical race theory continues, Texas is leading the charge with its Senate voting in favour of another bill that aims to scrap a lot of the current curriculum requirements. Earlier this year, the state got in hot water in May as its ‘critical race theory bill’—its aim to ban the theory in schools—was passed in the US Senate. This new bill continues to strip back the actual history of the states and goes even further in upholding the values of white supremacy. Don’t believe me? Well here’s what the new proposal aims to remove from Texas education.
The most notable element that has created shock waves is the elimination of the requirement for schools to teach its students “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Klu Klux Klan [KKK], and the ways in which it is morally wrong.” To put it simply, this was a requirement in the civics curriculum, and now? It might not be. It doesn’t stop there.
While the news of the KKK amendment is causing shockwaves, the bill itself—Senate Bill 3—aims to redact over two dozen other curriculum requirements, HuffPost reports. The KKK is one thing and sure, it makes a controversial headline but the very fabric of American history is at threat of being wiped—if the white supremacy wasn’t clear enough, it gets worse.
Bloomberg reports that the legislation passed in the Texas Senate on a vote of 18 to 4 on Friday 16 July; and if officially passed as law, the bill would seek to aim to remove the requirement for educators to teach their students about: Native American history altogether, elements of the Civil Rights movement including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the history of the women’s suffrage movement and activist Susan B. Anthony, and the work of Cesar Chavez (to name a few). It also limits teachers from discussing “particular current event[s] or widely debated and currently controversial issue[s] of public policy or social affairs.”
Instead, the bill focuses its education on the founding fathers, their writings and things pertaining to the constitution of the US—including the thirteenth, fourteenth and nineteenth amendments. Many people noticed the missing fifteenth amendment (“the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, colour or previous condition to servitude”) as another attempt at voter suppression. Texas, you just keep knocking it out of the park, and not in a good way.
Texas State Representative James Talarico—who was a major opponent to the original bill—expressed his dismay at the removal of these education requirements to The Texas Tribune, “The amendments the House added were essential to ensure that we were teaching students all of American history—the good, the bad and the ugly.” He continued, “They were put in place to ensure that teachers wouldn’t be punished for telling their students the truth. And if we were to strip them, I could see teachers across the state of Texas being silenced.”
“It’s a frightening dystopian future that starts to come into focus,” he added.
There is some good news; the bill is not expected to actually become law as it still has to win a vote in the House of Representatives—there’s still hope considering that a total of 56 Democratic Representations deadlocked the House after leaving the state in a bid to block the session taking place.