Rebecca Kern, Politico, September 16, 2022
A Texas law that bans social media companies from censoring users’ viewpoints is constitutionally allowed, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday, in a blow to Facebook, Twitter and Google.
The ruling is a win for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in their efforts to combat what they call censorship of conservative viewpoints by social media companies.
The law, H.B. 20, had previously been blocked from taking effect by a May 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which had granted an emergency request by tech trade groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represent Facebook, Twitter and Google. The trade groups have alleged the Texas law violates the First Amendment rights of the companies they represent.
“Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say,” Andrew Oldham, a Donald Trump appointee who had previously served as Abbott’s general counsel, wrote in the 5th Circuit’s decision.
Netchoice and the CCIA have argued that the First Amendment protects social media platforms’ ability to curate content, much like a newspaper does.
Oldham dismissed this argument, writing in the decision, “We reject the Platforms’ attempt to extract a freewheeling censorship right from the Constitution’s free speech guarantee. The Platforms are not newspapers. Their censorship is not speech.”
Texas’ law, were it to go into effect, could drastically change the way social media companies operate by restricting their ability to police their platforms and forcing the platforms to keep up content that could violate their hate speech rules.
It would allow both the state of Texas and individual Texans to sue companies if they “censor” an individual based on their viewpoints or their geographic location by banning them or blocking, removing or otherwise discriminating against their posts.