87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateSocial Media Censorship Bill Fails to Pass Texas Legislature Before Deadline

Senate Bill 12, which would have allowed censored Texans to challenge social media companies, died after failing to pass the midnight deadline on Tuesday.
May 26, 2021
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Among the casualties of bills on Tuesday night after a long day of Democrats stalling the process in the Texas House was Senate Bill (SB) 12, which would have created a process for Texans who have been de-platformed or censored because of their viewpoints to challenge social media companies.

Filed by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and carried in the House by Rep. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), SB 12 was also a priority bill for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and had the backing of Gov. Greg Abbott, who touted the legislation in early March.

The approach pursued by Texas lawmakers was much less brazen than that taken by Florida lawmakers, which recently enacted legislation to allow censored individuals to sue social media companies to win monetary damages and fine companies that de-platform political candidates in the state.

Texas lawmakers expressed concern about liability protections for social media companies under federal law and sought to work around that with SB 12 by only allowing individuals to sue in order to allow their viewpoint to continue to be shared on the platform.

Under the Texas version, companies could have been required to pay for an individual’s attorney’s fees, but not further monetary compensation.

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SB 12 was approved along party lines in the Senate at the beginning of April, but after being sent to the lower chamber, it sat in the House State Affairs Committee chaired by Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) for over a month.

On March 11, the chairman of Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) — an influential political organization that focuses on curbing frivolous lawsuits through tort reform — sent a letter to Paddie clarifying that they did not oppose the bill.

“There apparently is misinformation that TLR opposes SB 12. TLR does not oppose SB 12,” wrote Chairman Richard Trabulsi. “SB 12 contains no cause of action for damages. Rather, the legal remedies are declaratory judgment or injunctive relief. We see no opportunity for ‘mass tort’ lawsuit abuse in this bill.” 

“While this bill is not exactly in the TLR ‘wheelhouse,’ I will inform you that TLR’s leadership, to include myself and Dick Weekley, believe this is good and needed legislation,” said Trabulsi.

Three days after the letter was sent, SB 12 was considered in a formal meeting and approved by the committee.

But the bill was not placed on the House calendar with high enough priority to pass before the midnight deadline on Tuesday.

SB 12 was first brought to the floor on Monday evening, but consideration of the measure was postponed by Sanford after the legislation was challenged with a point of order from Democrats.

Throughout Tuesday, House Democrats carried out a stalling tactic known as “chubbing,” by which members maximize the amount of time spent asking questions or speaking on each bill.

The censorship bill was brought forward several hours before the clock struck midnight, but was again challenged with a point of order and delayed.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.