Tech com removed Buffalo shooting manifesto. TX law could make that illegal

Source: Politico | May 18, 2022 | Rebecca Kern

Tech companies removed the Buffalo shooting manifesto. A Texas law could make that illegal.

Conservative lawmakers’ attempts to forbid “censorship” by social media giants are colliding with efforts to combat hateful rhetoric online.

A Texas law under review by the Supreme Court could make it harder for tech companies to remove many kinds of violent, hate-filled content from their sites — including a racist manifesto linked to the suspect of last weekend’s mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.

The statute, which makes it illegal for large social media platforms to “censor” users or their posts based on “viewpoint,” is among a growing set of barriers facing companies such as Facebook, Google and YouTube as they try to police problematic messages. The Supreme Court may rule this week on a tech industry request to block the Texas law from taking effect.

Meanwhile, Twitter’s own anti-hate efforts face an uncertain future under the company’s planned purchase by Elon Musk, who has called himself a “free-speech absolutist” and said he opposes “censorship that goes far beyond the law.”

Musk has said he would still take down content that’s illegal or incites violence, and the Texas law includes exceptions for “unlawful expression” and “specific threats of violence” against people based on factors like race, religion or national origin. But companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter have used their hate policies to take down content that doesn’t clearly violate any U.S. laws, such as insults aimed at Black Americans, immigrants, Muslims, Jews or transgender people — and now, those efforts could become legally perilous.

Facebook, Twitter and the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch may have even violated the Texas law when they took down the white supremacist manifesto that the Buffalo shooting suspect is believed to have posted online, tech industry lawyer Chris Marchese said in an interview. He said the manifesto is “absolutely” covered under the law, known as HB 20.

“The manifesto is written speech and even though it is vile, extremist and disgusting speech it is nevertheless a viewpoint that HB 20 now protects,” said Marchese, the counsel at the industry group NetChoice. The group, which represents companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter, filed an emergency appeal Friday to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito seeking to block the Texas law, with a ruling expected as early as this week.


Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
  • Discussion
  • Consistent #53644

Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.