A Texas law prohibiting large social media companies from banning users over their political views has been reinstated following a ruling from a federal appeals court.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel has granted a request from the state to allow the law to go back into effect as the case plays out in district court.
The law in question, HB 20, takes aim at “censorship of or certain other interference with digital expression, including expression on social media platforms or through electronic mail messages.”
It states that “each person in this state has a fundamental interest in the free exchange of ideas and information, including the freedom of others to share and receive ideas and information” and that “this state has a fundamental interest in protecting the free exchange of ideas and information in this state.” The legislature further determined that “social media platforms function as common carriers, are affected with a public interest, are central public forums for public debate, and have enjoyed governmental support in the United States” and “social media platforms with the largest number of users are common carriers by virtue of their market dominance.”
HB20 only applies to companies with 50 million active monthly users and that rely on user-generated content, meaning the largest social media companies and email providers.
The rules only apply after the law is enacted, so Texas users who have previously been banned over politics will not be able to file lawsuits.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated the appeals court’s decision on Twitter, calling it a “BIG WIN against BIG TECH.”
My office just secured another BIG WIN against BIG TECH.#Texas‘s HB20 is back in effect. The 5th Circuit made the right call here, and I look forward to continuing to defend the constitutionality of #HB20. https://t.co/197atNgQ2Z
— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) May 11, 2022
“The 5th Circuit made the right call here, and I look forward to continuing to defend the constitutionality of #HB20,” Paxton added.
After HB20 was enacted, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), industry trade groups that represent companies like Google and Twitter, sued to block the legislation. A judge ruled that the law could be blocked while the lawsuit is decided, arguing that the First Amendment protects a company’s right to moderate content.
Paxton appealed the decision in the 5th Circuit.
A similar law in Florida is also making its way through the courts, as NetChoice and CCIA filed lawsuits against that one as well.