News & Politics

Capitol Whispers: What Happened to Texas' Social Media Censorship Bill?

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Heading into this year’s legislative session in Texas, all the leaders were aligned on a few key priorities. One of those was protecting Texans from censorship on social media.

A bill was introduced: Senate Bill 12. It had strong sponsorship.

Gov. Greg Abbott supported Senate Bill 12, saying:

They are controlling the flow of information — and sometimes denying the flow of information… And they are being in the position where they’re choosing which viewpoints, are going to be allowed to be presented. Texas is taking a stand against big tech political censorship. We’re not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.

Everyone knows this is true. Social media censorship has de-platformed innocent people and damaged others’ reputations. It hurts media sites such as this one when the so-called “fact-checkers” play God with stories and thoughts they want to quash. The latest: After a year of censorship on the question of COVID’s origins, Facebook dropped a bombshell Wednesday when it decided it would no longer censor posts positing that the virus may have man-made lab origins. On Tuesday, Facebook would have jailed or de-platformed you for saying that.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick supported blocking social media censorship, making it one of his legislative priorities for the session. In Texas during a legislative session, the lieutenant governor wields a great deal of power by presiding over the state Senate. Patrick is arguably the most successful legislator in Texas history.

SB 12 was introduced at the beginning of March and passed the Senate within a month of its introduction.

It went to the House and landed with the State Affairs Committee, chaired by state Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall).

And there it sat. For about five long weeks. Check the official record of events here.

social media censorship
SB 12 record of progression in the Texas Legislature.

As you can see, the bill went to state Rep. Paddie’s committee on April 6, 2021 (“Referred to State Affairs”) and did not move an inch until May 14, on which day it was reported out as it was, unamended. It goes to Calendars on May 20. Time is a-wasting.

That time cost the bill in the final hours, as the legislature’s Democrats “chubbed” a bunch of bills to death. Chubbing is akin to filibustering. As the session’s voting hours waned this week, the Democrats were chubbing every minute of it.

SB 12 has now died, and Lt. Gov. Patrick is among the voices calling for a special session to get it and a few other key measures passed. The votes are there. It passed the Senate 31-0 on final vote and would presumably pass the House, and would have if it had not gotten mysteriously stuck in legislative jail for several critical weeks.

Why couldn’t SB 12 have moved on out of House State Affairs far more quickly, given the fact that both Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick had made this specific bill a priority?

That’s the question on everyone’s minds around Austin. What happened? We hear things. Others hear other things. The bottom line is, it went to state Rep. Paddie’s committee in the House and there it languished like a man tossed into Facebook jail for saying the sky is blue when the fact-checkers decide no, today it’s green.

Did a staffer find a way to drag SB 12 out back and kill it slowly? Was there a key lobbyist involved (there usually is)? What happened in the state House?

Florida has a social media censorship bill. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it this week, and the signing ceremony gave him the opportunity to seize on a reporter’s hackishly biased question and explain exactly why such a law is needed in his state.

Perhaps Texans can somehow benefit from the leadership Florida is now providing. Or perhaps Texas can pass its own law, as the governor and lieutenant governor said they would.