In a move just about anyone could have predicted, a federal judge has blocked The Texas Controversy social media law it would have restricted how companies moderate content, claiming such efforts violate the First Amendment.
If passed, Texas HB 20 would have banned major social media platforms with more than 50 million users from removing users based on their political perspective. Additionally, Texas residents under the law could sue these businesses if they mistakenly believed they were banned. The law had inelegantly tried to get around these fairly obvious First Amendment issues by categorizing the platforms as “common carriers,” which US District Judge Robert Pitman called bullshit in his ruling.
“First, social media platforms are private platforms, not public forums,” Pitman wrote in order. “Second, this Court found that the covered social media platforms are not common carriers. “
The judge’s order granted a temporary injunction proposed by two trade groups representing large tech companies. Although the main purpose of the law was to prevent companies from removing users based on their political views, the judge ruled that this so-called “discrimination” is in fact an editorial power protected by the First Amendment.
“Without editorial discretion, social media platforms could not ideologically distort their platforms, as the state accuses them of doing,” Pitman wrote.
If this all sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because the law, and a similar law attempted in Florida, are part of the continuity of the reaction of the political right prohibition of former President Donald Trump from major internet platforms two weeks before the end of his term. Governor of Texas and renowned Trump sycophantic, Greg Abbott signed the bill on September 9 affirming in press conference back in the days when Texas “took a stand against big tech political censorship.” Abbott added, “We’re not going to allow it in the Lone Star State.”
The law was immediately rejected by residents of Texas and digital rights activists, and the main players in the technology industry. Last September, the two large professional groups representing heavyweights like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, have co-filed their trial saying that the new law tendon the ability of platforms to remove harmful content such as hate speech or disinformation. This limitation, in turn, would represent a violation of the First Amendment rights of corporations.
“At a minimum, HB 20 would unconstitutionally require platforms like YouTube and Facebook to broadcast, for example, pro-Nazi speeches, terrorist propaganda, foreign government disinformation and medical disinformation,” the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also argued that HB 20 was in violation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants platforms liability protection for most user-generated content and gives them the freedom to moderate their sites as they see fit.
The judge’s decision follows a similar decision decision against Florida law on social media pass in May. In this case, the law approved by Ron DeSantis would attempt to fine social media companies $ 250,000 per day for banning political candidates statewide. The judge in that case, US District Judge Robert Hinkle, said the Florida law was far too broad and amounted to “burning the house to roast a pig.” In general, Hinkle held that “balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers” did not amount to a legitimate government interest.
This week a court decision, like Florida’s, was inevitable. Whether or not these two unsuccessful lawsuits signal the end of right-wing technology laws, I salute you, remains unclear. Allegations of liberal bias in tech and conservative online censorship remain hot topics for Republican voters.
Last year, about 90% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents Recount Pew Research which it’s at least quite likely that social media companies have censored platform views find reprehensible, a figure 10% higher than it was two years earlier. Meanwhile, 69% of those Republicans and Republican learners said they believe social media companies support Liberal views on conservatives. It is all, sure, despite the fact that Big Tech is about as “liberal”Like a healthy milkshake.