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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Texas’s Censorship Law on Social Media Remains A Threat Despite SC Block

The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a Texas censorship law that would have made it illegal for large social media sites to remove posts based on the opinions expressed in them.

The court’s brief order was unsigned and did not include any justifications, as is customary when the justices act on emergency applications. The injunction was not the final word in the case, which is still continuing in a federal appeals court and might end up before the Supreme Court again.

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The court decided 5-4 to uphold a plea from tech trade groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) to overturn a lower court’s decision to stay an injunction against the bill while the law’s legal battle continues.

The Censorship Law Was Enacted In Response To Conservative Complaints

The decision came after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unexpectedly overturned a verdict that prevented Texas from enforcing the censorship law, which would restrict social media platforms from “censoring” users based on their “viewpoint,” whether expressed on or off the platform.

NetChoice and CCIA argued in a filing that the rule will force platforms to broadcast propaganda from ISIS, the Kremlin, and the KKK, driving away advertisers and forcing the abandonment of content moderation systems that cost billions of dollars to construct.

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In a brief, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other officials stated that social media companies use heavy-handed and arbitrary filtering because they have become guardians of the public square.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that it’s “not at all evident” how pre-internet precedents should be applied to social media platforms and that the Supreme Court’s action was premature.

The whole challenge to the Texas statute will now be heard by the Fifth Circuit. Gallant predicted that the decision will be made in the fourth quarter. That court has already indicated that it is inclined to uphold Texas’ statute.

However, many experts believe that with the Florida case in the 11th Circuit and the Texas statute in the Fifth Circuit, the issue of whether these censorship laws violate social media corporations’ First Amendment rights would eventually end up before the US Supreme Court.

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