Texas governor meets with tech officials about quelling hate

Governor Greg Abbott (top center) led Thursday’s forum in Austin, convened because of the El Paso massacre, which killed 22.
Governor Greg Abbott (top center) led Thursday’s forum in Austin, convened because of the El Paso massacre, which killed 22.Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday met in Austin with executives from big technology companies to discuss ways to combat extremism following the mass shooting in El Paso, which killed 22 people.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter officers sat down with state lawmakers and the FBI after Abbott called for a crackdown on Internet sites used by violent extremists. The authorities believe the gunman posted a racist screed online shortly before carrying out the Aug. 3 attack.

Abbott said a series of roundtable discussions would include looking at ‘‘keeping guns out of the hands of deranged individuals while at the very same time making sure that we can do so in a way that safeguards Second Amendment rights.’’


He hasn’t proposed any new major gun-control measures. Thursday’s meeting was also attended by several El Paso Democrats who have pushed for tighter gun restrictions in Texas.

Patrick Crusius, charged with capital murder in the El Paso shooting, has allegedly confessed that he targeted Mexicans in the attack. The authorities also believe the 21-year-old railed against immigrants and the migration of Hispanics to the United States in a rambling document that appeared on the 8chan message board.

It’s unclear what the tech platforms will say. None of the companies addressed questions about their role after Abbott announced the meeting earlier this week.

Michael Pachter, a research analyst with Wedbush Securities, said the Texas roundtable was the first time he has heard of a state attempting to regulate Internet activity.

‘‘The problem I think all of the tech companies have is they want to respect the free-speech rights of their users, and yet there is a line,’’ Pachter said.

Abbott said in advance that the meeting would focus on ways to battle ‘‘hateful ideologies,’’ domestic terrorism, and cybersecurity threats.

The Texas chapter of Gun Owners of America held a small rally outside the Capitol before Abbott’s meeting to protest the possibility of ‘‘red flag’’ laws that would allow guns to be removed from a person determined to be a danger to themselves or others. The group also spoke against any ‘‘social media monitoring.’’


Stephen Willeford, who shot back at the gunman who attacked a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, said gun owners don’t want more restrictions and that ‘‘red flag’’ laws do away with due process.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released a report Thursday on firearms laws and gun violence in Texas, and geared up for its town hall meeting in El Paso. Ari Freilich, an attorney for the organization, said that among the report’s proposals is disarming hate crime offenders and others convicted of violent crimes.

According to the Giffords report, under Texas law those convicted of violent hate-crime assaults and hate crimes involving ‘‘terroristic threats’’ are generally able to legally buy guns immediately after conviction.

‘‘We’ve also seen this before,” Freilich said, “so we want to make sure the folks having these conversations know that it’s time for a really serious conversation that’s responsive to ways in which Texans are being harmed every day by guns.’’