Supreme Court temporarily blocks Texas’s social media moderation law


In an unusual alignment the five justices in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Sonia Sotomayor.

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan was joined by conservative justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, who would have denied the request.

The Supreme Court order is a loss for Texas. The state argued that its law, HB 20, which prohibits large social media firms from blocking, banning or demoting posts or accounts, does not violate the First Amendment.

Opponents of HB 20, including the tech industry, argued that the legislation infringes on the constitutional rights of tech platforms to make editorial decisions and to be free from government-compelled speech.

The state argued that HB 20 does not violate the First Amendment because the law seeks to regulate tech platforms’ conduct toward their users, not the companies’ speech, and that it seeks to designate them as “common carriers” akin to railroads and phone companies.

The wider case is viewed as a bellwether for the social media industry and could determine whether tech platforms have to scale back their content moderation in more than just Texas, and to allow a broad range of material that their terms currently prohibit.

In a separate dispute, a different federal appeals court kept on hold most of a similar law out of Florida, creating a circuit split on the issue. Often, the Supreme Court is more likely to wade into a dispute if lower courts are in direct conflict.

The Texas law is being challenged by advocacy groups representing the tech industry.

Texas has declared open season on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with censorship law

In court papers, the groups called the law “an unprecedented assault on the editorial discretion of private websites.” They warn it “would compel platforms to disseminate all sorts of objectionable viewpoints—such as Russia’s propaganda claiming that its invasion of Ukraine is justified, ISIS propaganda claiming that extremism is war- ranted, neo-Nazi or KKK screeds denying or supporting the Holocaust, and encouraging children to engage in risky or unhealthy behavior like eating disorders.”

In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had argued that HB 20 does not infringe on tech platforms’ speech rights.

The legal battle attracted “friend of the court” briefs from interested parties including groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP who had urged the Court to block the law, arguing it will “transform social media platforms into online repositories of vile, graphic, harmful, hateful, and fraudulent content, of no utility to the individuals who currently engage in those communities.”

A group of states led by Florida also submitted a Court filing defending Texas’s law. The friend-of-the-court brief, which was authored by a dozen states including Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky and South Carolina, among others, reflects how the legal battle over HB 20 has nationwide ramifications.

Quoted from Various Sources

Published for: Ipodifier