While the Texas governor recently publicly bashed Facebook for censorship, he was quietly working with them behind the scenes to build a new campus in Texas—and may even give them exclusive taxpayer-funded perks.
Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke out against the Big Tech behemoth for censoring free speech, saying they are assaulting the First Amendment and even calling them “un-American.” He also joined State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) in announcing a proposed law to stop social media companies from discriminating based on political viewpoints.
“What Facebook and Twitter are doing, they are controlling the flow of information—and sometimes denying the flow of information,” Abbott said at a March press conference. “And they are being in the position where they’re choosing which viewpoints are going to be allowed to be presented. Texas is taking a stand against Big Tech political censorship. We’re not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.”
“Too many social media sites silence conservative speech and ideas and trample free speech,” Abbott also tweeted. “It’s un-American, Un-Texan, & soon to be illegal.”
However, at the same time, Abbott’s office was privately seeking favor with Facebook, dealing with the company so they would hopefully build a second data center in Texas.
According to documents by the Tech Transparency Project provided to The Texas Tribune, the Project filed an open records request to Abbott earlier this year seeking communications between the governor’s office and employees of certain tech companies, including Facebook.
The governor’s office did not release any documents, and according to another open records request, they instead asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to justify withholding the information.
However, the request did reveal a letter by Justin Hoover, an attorney representing Facebook, that argued releasing the 100-plus pages of communications between the governor’s office and the social media giant would uncover restricted information—such as the nondisclosure agreement between Abbott’s office and Facebook, the new data center’s project codename, and the fact they were even considering another facility in Texas.
Not only was Abbott privately dealing with the company he publicly lambasted, but he may even give them exclusive perks to build here, paid with cash from Texas taxpayers’ wallets.
In the past, Abbott has used the “Texas Enterprise Fund” to hand out “tax incentive” deals to favored corporations. What that means in reality for citizens: Normal Texans must pay full taxes to state officials, but then state officials take that money and give it as a perk to hand-picked corporations—and also exempt those corporations from taxes.
Indeed, Tech Transparency Project Director Katie Paul said in a statement that it’s “entirely likely” an agreement between Abbott’s office and Facebook would “end up being a raw deal for Texas taxpayers.”
“A similar data center in Tennessee granted Facebook $19.5 million in tax incentives for a project that would only create 100 new jobs,” Paul said. “If Facebook throws its weight around in Texas in the same way it did in Tennessee, it’s no wonder that both the company and the governor’s office are trying to keep their negotiations under wraps.”
Facebook already has a $1.5 billion data center under construction in Fort Worth, and at the time of its groundbreaking several years ago, city officials gave the tech giant a lavish tax exemption deal for the project worth $147 million over 20 years. The center employs about 150 people.
Now, especially in light of Facebook’s recent crackdown on free speech, will Abbott make an unjust “tax incentive” deal with them?
“Texas is taking a stand against Big Tech political censorship,” Abbott said in March. “We’re not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.”
Concerned citizens may contact the governor’s office.