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Gov. Greg Abbott joins Sen. Bryan Hughes in Tyler to discuss social media censorship bill

The visit came just three days after he announced he would be ending the statewide mask mandate.

TYLER, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott paid a visit to the Rose City Friday.

The governor, joined by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), discussed Senate Bill 12 (SB12), the senator's social media legislation which was filed on March 1.

According to Sen. Hughes, SB12 will help prohibit social media companies from censoring Texans based on the viewpoints they express.  

The pair held a press conference just after noon at the Plaza Tower Atrium, located at 110 N. College Ave.

In an interview on our Dallas station's Inside Texas Politics, Sen. Hughes stated federal law does allow regulation of big tech companies.

"[And] so the bill we're getting ready to file will say that if a company discriminates against you, if the platforms blocks or kicks you off based on your viewpoint, based on your politics or religion based on viewpoint discrimination, it will give you a way to get back online," Sen. Hughes said.

Sen Hughes also spoke with CBS19's David Lippman on ETX Covered about the bill. Video of that interview can be seen below.

"Social media sites have become our modern day public squares where information should be able to flow freely, but social media companies are now acting as judge and jury on determining what viewpoints are valid,” said Gov. Abbott. “America was built on freedom of speech and healthy public debate, and efforts to silence conservative viewpoints on social media are wrong and weaken public discourse. I thank Senator Hughes for offering SB 12 to help protect Texans from being wrongfully censored on social media for voicing their political or religious viewpoints. With SB 12, Senator Hughes is taking a stand against Big Tech’s political censorship and protecting Texans’ right to freedom of expression. I look forward to working with Senator Hughes to sign this bill into law and protect free speech in Texas."

Gov. Abbott's visit came just three days after he announced he would be ending the statewide mask mandate and allowing all Texas businesses to open to 100% capacity. The new order goes in to effect at midnight on Wednesday, March 10.

If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a county judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, county judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask. If restrictions are imposed at a county level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity. 

The mask mandate was issued in July 2020 by Executive Order and required all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions.

The initial mandate stated following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation. However, many local law enforcement agencies refused to enforce the order.

According to the Texas Tribune, as of Tuesday, Feb. 28, only 6.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated..