A controversial Texas law that will expose social media companies to lawsuits from damaged users has yielded a surprise victory. A trio of federal appeals court judges issued a ruling Wednesday that halted a temporary order that prevented the law from taking effect last year.
The law, HB 20would prohibit technology platforms from removing or restricting content based on “the views of the user or others” or the “opinion expressed in the words of the user” – some extremely broad and potentially powerful criteria. Lots of room for explanation.
Two technology industry groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, pursued orders against the law last year, enacted last December. In one heard about HB 20 on Mondayone of the judges cryptically told trade groups that their tech industry customers were “internet providers” and not websites.
“Encouraging lawsuits against companies exercising their First Amendment rights would violate the Constitution and put Texans at greater risk online,” the CCIA said during the debates. mouth on Monday. CCIA President Matt Schruers issued the ruling Wednesday for a First Amendment violation.
“Digital services have the right and commitment to their communities to take action against questionable content on their platforms,” Schruers said. “That’s whether the content is racist and abusive or anti-American extremism or foreign propaganda.”
Supporters of the Texas law, created to punish tech companies for perceived anti-conservative bias, may have won on Wednesday, but things are certainly not settled for HB 20 for its potential impacts on social media platforms operating in the state. NetChoice has stated its intention to appeal this order.
“HB 20 is an attack on the First Amendment, and it is constitutionally rotten from top to bottom,” NetChoice’s the lawyer said in a tweet. “So we will of course appeal to today’s unprecedented, unexplained and regrettable order by a 2-1 split panel.”
A federal judge is blocked a similar law from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last year. In the decision, federal judge Robert Hinkle noted that the law “obviously” violated Section 230, which allows internet platforms to censor content as they see fit. The judge also noted that the law could ironically violate the First Amendment rights of social media companies themselves, even if ostensibly promoting an agenda of free speech. .