Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Tech industry appeals to Texas’ bad social media law at SCOTUS

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Tech industry associations NetChoice and the Computer Communications Industry Association have appealed directly to the Supreme Court for an emergency deferral of the Texas social media law known as HB 20. The law, which creates liability for content moderation decisions based on “the the user or any other person” could make it impossible to ban hate speech — or even moderate platforms. HB 20 was successfully blocked in court late last year and then unblocked by an appeals court on Wednesday without explanation.

“Texas HB 20 deprives private online businesses of their voice rights, prohibits them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions and forces them to publish and promote objectionable content,” NetChoice adviser Chris Marchese said in a statement. press release† “The First Amendment prohibits Texas from forcing online platforms to host and promote foreign propaganda, pornography, pro-Nazi statements, and spam.”

During the hearing leading up to the court’s decision to unblock HB 20, the Fifth Circuit’s three-member panel appeared confused about many of the basic terms used — one judge seemed to think that Twitter was not a websiteand another seemed to think there was no difference between a phone company like Verizon and a social media company like Twitter or Facebook.

NetChoice won a similar case in Florida last year, making the constitutional issues in this case even more urgent to address.

By going straight to the Supreme Court, NetChoice and CCIA chose to skip “en banc” review, where the Fifth Circuit would have assembled a larger panel to review the original panel’s decision. NetChoice’s emergency stay request will be: judged by Justice Samuel Alito, who can unilaterally decide whether to take the case to court. If the request is granted, it means that HB 20 will be blocked again, pending further legal proceedings.

Right now, the Supreme Court has a solid conservative majority, including Justice Clarence Thomas, whose views on Twitter moderation appear to reflect HB 20, and whose wife’s Facebook posts promoted the January 6 rally that culminated in an uprising and also led to Donald Trump being banned from Twitter.

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