Tech Group Asks Supreme Court to Block Texas Social Media Act

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Two Washington-based groups representing Google, Facebook and other tech giants filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court on Friday.

The Texas law went into effect on Wednesday after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted a district court injunction that had barred it. The appeals court’s action shocked the industry, which has been very successful in defeating efforts by Republican state leaders to regulate content moderation policies at social media companies.

According to the press release, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), in filings with the Supreme Court, argue that the law is unconstitutional and risks “irreparable harm” to the Internet and businesses.

NetChoice attorney Chris Marchese said in a statement: “This law deprives individual online businesses of voice, prohibits them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions, and compels them to post and promote objectionable content.” “left wing, [the Texas law] The First Amendment to the Constitution will be withdrawn entirely. To infringe on freedom of the press, all we have to do is claim that the government ‘protects’ it.”

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The petition has been filed in the US Supreme Court over the future of online speech plaguing policymakers in Washington and state legislatures. As lawmakers across the country increasingly demand regulation of Silicon Valley’s content moderation policy, it’s in conflict with the First Amendment, which forbids governments from regulating speech.

This application was submitted to Republican President George W. Bush-appointed Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

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A Texas law signed by GOP Governor Greg Abbott in September reflects an increasingly strong push by Republicans (who remain a minority in Washington) in Congress to bolster accusations that tech companies are biased towards their ideologies. The law allows Texas residents and the Attorney General to file lawsuits if they believe that a social media company with more than 50 million users in the United States has been unfairly banned or censored. The law also requires tech companies, including Facebook and Google’s YouTube, to establish complaint systems so that people can challenge decisions to remove or report illegal activity.

This law was initially blocked from entry into force by a federal district judge. But in Wednesday night’s surprising decision, the Court of Appeal lifted the judge’s interim restraining order. By filing an emergency application with the Supreme Court, the tech trade group seeks to override the decision.

The law reflects a longstanding claim by conservatives that Silicon Valley social media companies are “censoring” them. Companies are denying the allegations, but the charges have become central to the Republican Party’s political message. A recent accusation that Elon Musk had “strong left-leaning” in the process of Twitter’s takeover has ignited these allegations.

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Florida passed a similar social media law last year but has been banned from enforcing it. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the state appeal last month, but failed to rule.

Legal experts and technical groups have argued widely that such laws violate the First Amendment. They also warn that it could make it more difficult for businesses to remove harmful and hateful content.

“No online platform, website or newspaper should direct a government official to give a specific speech,” CCIA Director Matt Schruers told The Washington Post. “There may be differing views on whether online platforms should embrace views such as hate speech or Nazi propaganda, but the First Amendment leaves that choice to private citizens and businesses, not bureaucracies.”

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