A federal appeals court earlier this month reinstated a Texas law that prohibits social media companies from banning users based on their political views.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman blocked the law in December after NetChoice and CCIA filed a lawsuit claiming that the law violated their right to free speech under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to Judge Pitman, social media platforms are protected by the First Amendment and have the right to moderate content.
Governor Abbott signed the HB20 last September, prohibiting the social media giants from banning users based on their political views and requiring them to produce regular reports of removed content, create a complaint system, and disclose their content regulation procedures, according to Texas Tribune.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Texas media law in a 5-4 ruling.
Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer ruled in favor of far-left social media giants, while Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Elena Kagan dissented from the ruling.
The Supreme Court blocked a controversial Texas social media law from taking effect in a decision released on Tuesday, after the tech industry and other opponents warned it could allow for hateful content to run rampant online.
The law, HB20, prohibits online platforms from moderating or removing content based on viewpoint. It stems from a common charge on the right that major California-based social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are biased in their moderation strategies and disproportionately quiet conservative voices. The platforms have said they apply their community guidelines evenly and it’s often the case that right-leaning users rank among the highest in engagement.
Texas’ attorney general Ken Paxton, a Republican, has said this is not the case, writing in a response to the emergency application, that the law does not “prohibit the platforms from removing entire categories of content.”
In the 5-4 decision, Alito dissented from the decision to lift the stay, issuing a written explanation for his vote, which was joined by two other conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, also voted against vacating the stay.
Alito’s dissent opened by acknowledging the significance of the case for social media companies and for states that would regulate how those companies can control the content on their platforms.