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NetChoice Disappointed to See Texas Violate First Amendment and Erode Parental Rights

AUSTIN, Texas—Today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 18, which violates the First Amendment many times over, undermines conservative principles of limited government and personal responsibility, and subordinates parental rights to government control, among other problems. 

HB 18 mandates Texas adults that use an online service to authenticate their identity by handing over private information, increasing the risk of fraud and identity theft. Likewise, if a Texan under 18 is trying to use social media, companies must obtain verified parental consent before allowing teens to set up accounts. This strips teens who do not have parents or guardians of their access to constitutionally protected speech. 

“We’re disappointed to see Gov. Abbott sign into law a bill that erodes parental rights while violating the First Amendment and digital freedoms for every Texan. This new law prioritizes government decree over Texan family values,” said NetChoice Vice President & General Counsel Carl Szabo. “By forcing sites, regardless of how secure they are, to track and store private information on users, this will undermine data security and enact unlawful barriers to constitutionally-protected speech.” 

Some problems with HB 18 include:

  • It undermines the First Amendment rights of every Texan; 
  • It erodes Texans’ parental rights and authority to determine how their kids engage online; 
  • It creates a complex regulatory bureaucracy that will be difficult for businesses operating online in the state to navigate;
  • It violates the principles of limited government and individual responsibility; and
  • It mirrors California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code, which is now facing legal challenges in NetChoice v. Bonta (2022).

Parents and guardians should be the ones deciding how their children use the internet—not the government. Every child is different and needs personalized care, and parents and guardians are the best incentivized to provide that. But laws like HB 18 strip away parental authority to decide what their children can access and hand it to the state. 

Policymakers should work on empowering parents, rather than handing their decision rights to distant regulators. 

You can read NetChoice’s veto letter to Gov. Abbott on HB 18 here. Please contact with questions.