A controversial Texas law that opens up social media companies to lawsuits from disgruntled users has won a surprising victory. Three federal appeals court judges issued a ruling on Wednesday, which suspended a temporary restraining order preventing the law from going into effect last year.
law, HB 20Prohibits technology platforms from removing or limiting content based on “the user’s or others’ point of view” or “the point of view expressed in a user’s expression” (a very broad criterion that is open to interpretation).
Two tech industry groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, applied for an injunction against the law, which was approved in December last year. during Hearing on HB 20 on MondayOne of the judges said the tech industry customers could not explain to the trading group that they were “internet providers” and not websites.
“Fostering lawsuits against companies exercising First Amendment rights would violate the Constitution and put Texas residents at greater risk online,” the CCIA said in oral pleadings on Monday. CCIA Director Matt Schruers accused Wednesday’s ruling of violating the First Amendment.
“Digital services have a promise to the community and the right to take action on problematic content on the platform,” Schruers said. “It doesn’t matter whether the content is racism and abuse, anti-American extremism, or foreign propaganda.”
Proponents of a Texas law designed to punish tech companies for perceived anti-conservative bias may have won on Wednesday, but the situation for HB 20, which could potentially have devastating effects on the state’s running social media platforms, is definitely resolved. It hasn’t been done. NetChoice has already said it intends to appeal the order.
NetChoice said, “HB 20 is an attack on the First Amendment and is constitutionally corrupt from top to bottom. The lawyer said in a tweet. “So of course we will appeal today’s unprecedented, inexplicable and unfortunate order in a 2-1 split panel.”
A federal judge blocked a similar law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last year. In that decision, Federal Judge Robert Hinckle found that the act violated Section 230, which “explicitly” allows Internet platforms to moderate content it deems appropriate. The judge also noted, ironically, that the law could infringe the First Amendment rights of social media companies while ostensibly pushing the freedom of expression agenda.