Politicians Ban Social Media Platforms From Removing Posts

Brazil and the U.S. state of Texas both banned social media companies from removing certain posts containing political viewpoints. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro’s ban is temporary, and focuses on content in which he claims the only way he will lose next year’s election is if the vote if rigged. Legal experts say this is the first time a national government stopped an Internet company from taking down content that violates their rules. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill forbidding social media platforms from removing posts because of political views. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among those expected to fight the Texas legislation.

The New York Times reports that, “Bolsonaro has used social media as a megaphone to build his political movement and make it to the president’s office.” As polls report that he would lose the presidential election if it were held today, “he is using sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to try to undermine the legitimacy of the vote, following the playbook of his close ally, former President Donald J. Trump.”

His new policy states that, “tech companies can remove posts only if they involve certain topics outlined in the measure, such as nudity, drugs and violence, or if they encourage crime or violate copyrights; to take down others, they must get a court order.”

“You can only imagine how hard it would be for a big platform to get a judicial order for every single piece of disinformation they find,” said Rio de Janeiro State University law professor Carlos Affonso Souza, who noted that “companies had 30 days to update their policies before facing penalties.”

Facebook stated that the “measure significantly hinders our ability to limit abuse on our platforms” and that it agrees “with legal experts and specialists who view the measure as a violation of constitutional rights.” According to Twitter, the policy is a change to existing Brazilian Internet law and “undermines the values and consensus it was built upon.”

NYT notes that a “a so-called provisional measure, a type of emergency order intended to address urgent situations … [will] expire in 120 days if Brazil’s Congress does not make them permanent.” Members of Congress have already spoken in opposition to the measure and “five political parties and a Brazilian senator have filed lawsuits with the nation’s Supreme Court seeking to block it.”

Elsewhere, NYT reports that Texas Governor Abbott “signed a bill on Thursday banning social media platforms from removing posts because of the political views expressed in them, a measure that is likely to draw significant legal scrutiny after a similar law was blocked by a judge in Florida.”

The law prevents Facebook, Twitter and their ilk from removing, “playing down” or “otherwise moderat[ing] content because of a user’s political perspective or ban the user entirely.”

Private citizens — as well as the state attorney general — will be able to sue social media companies, and those companies “will also need to publish regular reports showing how often they received complaints about content and how often they took posts down.”

NYT reports that, “the law covers companies with more than 50 million monthly active users in the United States, and it applies to anyone who lives in Texas, does business there or ‘shares or receives’ social media content in the state.”

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter Will Fight Texas Crackdown on ‘Censorship’ of Trump, Conservative Speech, USA Today, 9/9/21
Texas Passes Law That Bans Kicking People Off Social Media Based on ‘Viewpoint’, The Verge, 9/9/21
Texas Law Would Allow Users to Sue Social Media Companies Over Account Bans, The Wall Street Journal, 9/9/21