A controversial Texas law that would open social media companies to lawsuits from aggrieved users just won a surprise victory. A trio of federal appeals court judges issued the ruling Wednesday, halting a temporary injunction that blocked the law from taking effect last year.
The law, HB 20, would prohibit tech platforms from removing or restricting content based on “the point of view of the user or another person” or “the point of view represented in the user’s expression,” some extremely broad criteria with plenty of room for interpretation.
Two tech industry groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, filed for an injunction against the law last year, which was granted in December. During a hearing on HB 20 on Monday, one of the justices inexplicably told trade groups that his tech-industry clients were “internet providers,” not websites.
“Encouraging lawsuits against companies exercising their First Amendment rights would violate the Constitution and put Texans at greater risk online,” the CCIA said during oral arguments Monday. CCIA President Matt Schruers criticized Wednesday’s ruling for violating the First Amendment.
“Digital services have the right and commitment to their communities to take action against problematic content on their platforms,” Schruers said. “That holds true whether the content is racism and abuse or anti-American extremism or foreign propaganda.”
Advocates of the Texas law, designed to punish tech companies for perceived anti-conservative bias, may have scored a victory Wednesday, but things are certainly not settled for HB 20 given its potentially massive implications for networking platforms. societies operating in the state. NetChoice has already stated its intention to appeal the order.
“HB 20 is an assault on the First Amendment, and it is constitutionally rotten from top to bottom,” NetChoice said. said the lawyer in a tweet. “Then, of course, we are going to appeal today’s unprecedented, unexplained and unfortunate order through a 2-1 split panel.”
A federal judge blocked a similar law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last year. In the decision, federal Judge Robert Hinkle noted that the law “expressly” violated Section 230, which allows Internet platforms to moderate content as they see fit. The judge also noted that, ironically, the law could violate the First Amendment rights of the social media companies themselves, even while ostensibly promoting a free speech agenda.