Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) held a press conference Friday to discuss new legislation that would prohibit social media companies from censoring viewpoints.
The governor was joined by state Sen. Bryan Hughes to discuss his bill, Senate Bill 12, which "will help prohibit social media companies from censoring Texans based on the viewpoints they express."
"Conservative speech will not be canceled in the state of Texas," Abbott said. "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 said there is "a dangerous movement" to silence conservative ideas and religious beliefs spreading nationwide. He accused social media companies of engaging in that effort to silence conservatives through their content moderation policies.
"Senator Hughes' bill, Senate Bill 12, protects Texans from being wrongfully censored on social media, making sure that their voices are going to be heard and not canceled or silenced," he continued. He said websites like Facebook and Twitter have "evolved" into a "modern-day public square" but complained that those platforms have begun controlling the flow of information.
"They are choosing which viewpoints are going to be allowed to be presented," he said. "Texas is taking a stand against Big Tech political censorship: We're not going to allow it in the Lone Star state."
"Free speech is that uniquely American right, isn't it? The right to hash things out, to hear views that we may not like, because we want to get to the truth, we want to get to the right place. We're not afraid of debate," Hughes said.
He added, "It's sad that we have a handful of people in America today who want to control the town square, want to control social media, and want to enforce silence. If you have a viewpoint different from theirs, they want to shut you up. That's not the American way and that is not the Texas way."
Hughes' bill would declare that social media platforms "are central public forums for public debate." The bill would prohibit social media platforms from censoring a user or their posts or prohibiting a user from making a post based on their viewpoint.
"This bill will give Texans a right to get back online when they're mistreated in that way," Hughes said.
Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis became the first Republican governor in the nation to announce his support for legislation cracking down on Big Tech.
The bill DeSantis unveiled would go farther than the Texas bill, requiring social media platforms to give notice and disclosures about changes to their content standards or terms of service, giving users the ability to opt out of algorithms used on the platform, and ensuring that content moderation policies are applied equally to all users. The Florida bill would also impose fines and penalties for social media websites that interfere in elections by deplatforming candidates for office or using their technology to boost or suppress one candidate over another.