Tech industry asks court to block Texas law that targets social media companies

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Two tech trade groups presented themselves to the Supreme Court on Friday evening, asking judges to block a controversial Texas law that prohibits major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from moderating speech based on the views of their users. . Describing the law as an “undisguised effort to level the playing field of speech and control ‘Big Tech,'” the groups urged the court to reinstate a ruling by a Texas federal district judge barring the state to apply the law.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the law, known as HB 20, last September, and it was set to go into effect Dec. 2, 2021. But the two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association , went to the federal government. court in Texas, where U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman issued an order Dec. 1 barring the state from enforcing the law.

A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Wednesday issued a one-sentence order lifting Pittman’s injunction, clearing the way for the state to enforce the law. .

Represented by two former Texas Solicitors General, Scott Keller and Kyle Hawkins, as well as Paul Clement, who served as United States Solicitor General during the George W. Bush administration, the trade groups told judges that HB 20 violated the “Fundamental Principles of the First Amendment”. established by” the Supreme Court, which has “repeatedly recognized that private entities” — including websites — “have the First Amendment right to determine whether and how to broadcast speech.” Indeed, they suggested, “the whole impetus ‘for the law’ was that Texas didn’t like the way platforms exercised ‘editorial discretion’ to remove or refrain from airing certain speech.” In his official signing statement, the groups noted, Abbott specifically pointed out that it “is now legal that conservative viewpoints in Texas cannot be banned on social media.”

Allowing the law to take effect, the groups say, will impose substantial costs on social media companies, forcing them to reorganize their operations. Plus, they added, companies will lose money because advertisers will pull their ads rather than have them appear “next to vile and objectionable language” such as Russian propaganda or Holocaust deniers. , which platforms will be required to allow by law.

The groups also cited the superficial nature of the 5th Circuit’s order restoring the law as another reason to suspend the order while their challenge, as well as a challenge to a similar law in Florida, unfolds. “Whether this Court ultimately agrees or not,” the groups concluded, “Texas should not be allowed to transform the Internet until a single judge explains why the Texas effort complies with the First Amendment. “

Judge Samuel Alito on Saturday morning ordered Texas to file its response to the groups’ request by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18.

This article was originally published in Howe on the Court.

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