Texas Could Push Tech Platforms to Censor Posts About Abortion

State lawmakers in Texas are considering a bill introduced last month that would make it illegal to provide information on how to access abortion. The bill would also require internet service providers to block websites offering content like that in Marty’s book, allow prosecution of abortion pill “distribution networks,” and permit anyone to sue a person who shared anything about how to access a medical abortion. The proposal borrows from a Texas law passed in 2021 that offers a cash bounty to citizens who sue a person who helped facilitate access to abortion care.

The Texas proposal to restrict information about abortion follows a recent flurry of attempts to limit reproductive rights in the US, with a particular focus on medical abortions—that is, abortions induced by medication. Experts worry that if passed, the bill could incentivize platforms and internet service providers (ISPs) to censor abortion-related content more broadly for fear of costly court cases.

“It’s scaring the platforms and the ISPs and the speakers into thinking that they can be liable for the speech,” says Jennifer Pinsof, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “So it’s having a chilling effect and advancing the goal of keeping this information from being accessible to people online.”

The proposal to block Texans from accessing information about abortion, introduced by three male Republican representatives, is the most far-reaching attempt to date to limit how easily people learn about abortion access in the US. But it is not without precedent. Arizona has had a ban on advertising abortion services on its books since 1873. Other states, including Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan, and California, have restrictions on advertising the procedure.

Free speech is generally protected in the US under the First Amendment to the Constitution, while technology platforms have successfully argued that Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act means they can’t be held liable for content posted by users.

However, the bill being debated in Texas could essentially sidestep at least some of these protections by enlisting citizens to police information about abortions. Instead of the government cracking down on content, citizens would file civil court cases, with potential targets including social platforms and ISPs hosting websites or social posts offering information about abortion.

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Article URL : https://www.wired.com/story/texas-could-push-tech-platforms-to-censor-posts-about-abortion/