Federal Appeals Court Lifts Block on Texas Social-Media Law on Web Content Censorship

On Friday, a federal appeals court lifted an injunction under Texas law that forbids major social media sites from removing users’ posts based on their political stances. The recent law prohibits social media sites with more than 50 million monthly users, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, from removing a person or their posts due to a dispute. It will also prevent the blocking of hate speech.

This means that major companies are no more free to exercise their First Amendment right to censor on their platforms what people say. The ruling rejects the notion that companies have an unrestricted First Amendment authority to limit what people say.

After Texas passed House Bill 20 last year, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association filed a lawsuit, claiming that internet companies have a First Amendment right to censor the content posted on their platforms and choose which types of speech they deemed appropriate. The plaintiffs claimed that the legislation was unconstitutional, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, stating that they were looking for protection to “muzzle free speech.”

The CCIA claimed that the decision compelled tech companies to treat all forms of expression equally, including extreme viewpoints. According to the group, forcing private enterprises to treat all opinions equally on their platforms puts Americans in danger by putting foreign propaganda and extremists on an even playing field with respectable Internet users. Republican critics of Facebook and Twitter who claim the platforms stifle conservative speech were rendered victorious when a federal appeals court upheld a Texas legislation targeting the networks, reports say.

However, the ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is not expected to be the last word in a legal dispute with implications beyond Texas and the ability of some of the greatest tech corporations in the world to control user-generated content.

Additionally, the ruling mandates that they make information on account suspensions and content deletions public. The bill seen as a piece of a larger push against what conservatives consider to be anti-conservative prejudice at big internet firms, reports say. After the violent rebellion at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Twitter permanently banned former president Donald Trump for inciting violence and deleted over 70,000 accounts connected to risky conspiracy organizations, which increased this accusation.

Although social media companies do have regulations against blatantly graphic violence, bullying, hate speech, and harmful disinformation, officials from these companies have denied censoring content or restricting users based on their opinions.

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