Tech industry appeals bad Texas social media law to SCOTUS

Tech industry trade organizations NetChoice and the Computer Communications Industry Association have appealed directly to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the Texas social media law known as HB 20. The law, which creates accountability for content moderation decisions based on “the user’s or another person’s perspective,” could make it impossible to enforce hate speech bans – or even moderate platforms. HB 20 was successfully blocked in court late last year, then unblocked by an appeals court on Wednesday without explanation.

“Texas HB 20 strips private online companies of their free speech rights, prohibits them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions, and requires them to publish and promote objectionable content,” said NetChoice attorney Chris Marchese, in a press release. “The First Amendment prohibits Texas from forcing online platforms to host and promote foreign propaganda, pornography, pro-Nazi speech, and spam.”

During the appeal hearing preceding the court’s decision to unblock HB 20, the Fifth Circuit’s three-judge panel seemed confused about most of the basic terms used – one judge seemed to think Twitter was not a website, and another seemed to think there was no difference between a phone company like Verizon and a social media company like Twitter or Facebook.

NetChoice won a similar case in Florida last year, making the constitutional issues in that case even more urgent to resolve.

Going directly to the Supreme Court, NetChoice and the CCIA opted to skip the “en banc” review, in which the Fifth Circuit would have assembled a larger panel to review the original panel’s decision. NetChoice’s request for an emergency suspension will be considered by Judge Samuel Alito, who could decide unilaterally or send the case to court. If successful, the request would mean that HB 20 is on hold again, pending further legal proceedings.

Currently, the Supreme Court has a strong conservative majority, including Justice Clarence Thomas, whose views on Twitter moderation appear to echo HB 20, and whose woman’s Facebook posts have promoted the rally of the January 6 which turned into an insurrection and also resulted in Donald Trump. get banned on Twitter.

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