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Experts say the state’s anti-censorship law could do more harm than good

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The law banning major social media platforms from banning users for their political views is facing legal action.

AUSTIN, Texas – New Texas law banning large social media companies from banning users based on their political views is facing a lawsuit from tech trading groups representing Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Twitter.

Disinformation expert and assistant professor of journalism at the University of Texas Samuel Wooley said House Bill 20 could have a deleterious ripple effect.

“These companies can control your speech,” said Wooley. “They are private companies and must be treated as such. Otherwise, we risk falling onto a slippery slope where we begin telling people and their companies that they are not allowed to say certain political things in their companies.”

Netchoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association filed the lawsuit to block the law, saying it would leave them and users vulnerable to malicious information.

“It tries to treat social media companies like phone companies and say, ‘You can’t treat someone different because they have different policies on the phone,’ so you shouldn’t be able to do that on social media,” said Wooley. “Social media is a completely different ball game.”

Proponents of the Republican-led anti-censorship bill said it protected freedom of expression, but Wooley said it could increase the spread of misinformation.

“This misinformation that is spreading is about health, it’s about healthcare, it’s about elections and increasingly it’s getting really dangerous for people,” said Wooley. “In fact, research shows that false information and bad news spread much faster on the Internet than true information or good news.”

Wooley also said it was difficult to enforce.

“This idea that you would focus on content that only comes out in Texas and then only political content in Texas, for example, doesn’t make a lot of technological sense,” Wooley said. “The other thing is that a lot of people who use the internet, so-called VPNs, use Florida, it says you are in Nigeria.”

A similar law was recently blocked by a judge in Florida.

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