The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals preserved Texas state law Friday that would stop large social media platforms from restricting particular opinions.
Texas’ HB 20 was signed last year and generally prohibits platforms with over 50 million monthly U.S. users from censoring them based on their viewpoints. The Computer Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and the NetChoice organization, representing social media companies, argued that aspects of the law were unconstitutional but failed to convince the court.
“In urging such sweeping relief, the platforms offer a rather odd inversion of the First Amendment,” the court’s majority decision said. “That Amendment, of course, protects every person’s right to ‘the freedom of speech.’ But the platforms argue that buried somewhere in the person’s enumerated right to free speech lies a corporation’s unenumerated right to muzzle speech.”
The appeals court must give the district court that previously decided the case written instructions for the law to become effective, according to Politico. A 5-4 May U.S. Supreme Court ruling had halted the law from going into force after an emergency request by the CCIA and NetChoice.
Appealing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated the circuit court’s decision Friday, tweeting, “#BigTech CANNOT censor the political voices of ANY Texan! The 5th Circuit ‘reject[s] the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”
BREAKING: I just secured a MASSIVE VICTORY for the Constitution & Free Speech in fed court: #BigTech CANNOT censor the political voices of ANY Texan! The 5th Circuit “reject[s] the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. pic.twitter.com/UijlzYcv7r
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) September 16, 2022
CCIA President Matt Schruers decried the ruling, stating, “Forcing private companies to give equal treatment to all viewpoints on their platforms places foreign propaganda and extremism on equal footing with decent Internet users, and places Americans at risk,” according to The Hill.
The Supreme Court could still be asked to directly consider the law’s validity, the outlet reported.
In May, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a block on enforcing parts of Florida Senate Bill 7072, which would require social media platforms to explain the reasons for individual acts of supposed censorship, deplatforming and shadow banning and stop them from censoring a “journalistic enterprise based on the content of its publication or broadcast,” according to The National Law Review.
“We are disappointed that the Fifth Circuit’s split decision undermines First Amendment protections and creates a circuit split with the unanimous decision of the Eleventh Circuit,” NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo said in a Friday press release. “We remain convinced that when the U.S. Supreme Court hears one of our cases, it will uphold the First Amendment rights of websites, platforms, and apps.”
NetChoice declined the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. The CCIA did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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