Texas becomes latest red state to pursue anti-free speech legislation

Texas free speech Greg Abbott

Early last month, we learned about a batch of anti-free speech proposals introduced by Gov. Ron DeSantis in red state Florida as he makes preparations for his 2022 reelection and 2024 presidential campaigns. Unfortunately, in what is becoming a growing trend in Republican circles, Governor Greg Abbott is about to make Texas the latest red state to pursue anti-free speech legislation.

DeSantis, motivated by his full embrace of Trump’s four-years-long attack on free speech, claimed in a press conference at the time that the legislation he was promoting was necessary to “crack down” on Big Tech for their alleged bias against conservatives, and according to Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas’ anti-free speech legislation (SB-12) is needed for the same reason.

Using the rationale employed by DeSantis in Florida, Abbott said Texas will save free speech by destroying it (my words).

“We need to recognize in Texas, maybe particularly in Texas, we see that the First Amendment is under assault by the social media companies and that is not going to be tolerated in Texas.”

Abbott’s hyperbolic claim about the First Amendment being under assault by social media companies is classic Orwellian doublespeak used to justify government’s assault on free speech.

While it’s true that social media has been engaged in far-left activity by silencing voices they don’t agree with — I’m currently experiencing that myself — their actions are not an “assault” on the First Amendment. In fact, the First Amendment protects private entities like social media companies from the very laws DeSantis and Abbott want to pass. Senior Editor Robby Soave at Reason.com explains:

The First Amendment is not under assault by social media companies. On the contrary, the First Amendment defends the free speech rights of private entities—like social media companies—against restrictive government action, like this bill. It would be more accurate to say that the First Amendment is under assault by the Texas legislature. A private company deciding what kind of speech it allows on its platform is precisely the kind of thing the First Amendment protects from government interference. (emphasis mine)

Abbott is wrong lying because the First Amendment isn’t under assault by social media; if anything, it’s under assault by faux conservatives like him. However, the Texas legislation is political opportunism on parade because federal law already addresses the limitations placed on social media, while SB-12 is secondary to federal law.

Under a federal law known as Section 230, social media companies cannot be held liable for “any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” In other words, federal law already gives social media companies every right to restrict users’ content, and Texas’ bill—as written—bows to federal law. (emphasis mine)

Ah, yes. Section 230 — the key to Republican efforts to destroy free speech.

So-called Section 230 reform has been a vote-getting talking point for Trump and the Republican Party for some time, and they’ve used it to wage their war against the First Amendment and punish political enemies while simultaneously giving the state more control of the internet. Section 230 reform is a false-flag operation that has allowed Republicans to covertly push anti-free speech legislation that punishes big tech for being successful and creates a new “Fairness Doctrine” for the internet.

Red states like Florida and Texas aren’t the birthplaces of big tech demonization for political advantage; it was born in Washington.

Trump threatened to crush social media and other big tech companies for questioning his awesomeness, and he threatened to shutdown platforms like Facebook and Twitter for displeasing him. In May, 2020, he took action on his threat with an executive order entitled, “Preventing Online Censorship” (POC). His Orwellian order called for an “update” to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, labeled government regulation of speech as free speech, and called any resistance to government messaging (i.e. propaganda) “censorship.”

In addition, POC included new ways for the government to control internet content and spy on internet users.

Prior to Trump’s anti-free speech executive order, Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act, a bill that gives the government complete authority to grant or deny Section 230 protection for social media platforms based on their compliance with a set of arbitrary rules established by the bill.

Following Trump’s anti-free speech executive order, a group of Republicans introduced the Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act, a bill specifically limiting Section 230 immunity for social media platforms. The bill was sponsored by anti-big tech nationalist Sen. Josh Hawley, and co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, Mike Braun, and Tom Cotton.

Speaking of Hawley, taking down big tech and reforming Section 230 are keys to his 2024 presidential ambitions as he builds a platform based on Trumpism and constitutional ignorance.

From Florida and Texas to Washington, D.C., Republicans at every level of government are simply wrong about Section 230. They blame it for interfering with the free speech of conservatives on social media, but it actually makes it possible for conservatives to use Big Tech’s platform. Using anti-free speech legislation to punish social media companies will ultimately punish the conservative speech these faux conservatives claim they want to protect.

Republicans have been targeting the First Amendment, specifically free speech and a free press, ever since Donald Trump first uttered the words “Fake News.” And in these early days of the 2024 presidential campaign season, they are turning red states like Florida and Texas into bastions of anti-free speech attacks on Big Tech.

Republicans used to believe in free speech and the free market, but as you can plainly see by the Trumpism of Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, and others like them, that’s simply no longer the case.

If we are to have any chance at preventing conservative imposters like DeSantis and Abbott from turning red states into bastions of anti-free speech zealotry threatening to consume liberty and our republic, we need to reject Washington’s collectivist politics — along with Trumpism and nationalism — and strictly adhere to the Constitution and the foundation laid out by the Founding Fathers.

That’s the only way to rein in the power of out-of-control government. It’s the only way to protect free speech and the rest of the Bill of Rights. It’s the only way to preserve our God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.

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