Federal judge blocks Texas law that would have opened doors for right-wing lawsuits against social media

Coverage Type: 

Federal Judge Robert Pitman blocked a Texas law (HB 20) that would allow any state resident banned from a social media platform for their political views to sue the companies. “HB 20’s prohibitions on ‘censorship’ and constraints on how social media platforms disseminate content violate the First Amendment,” determined Judge Pitman in the decision. “Content moderation and curation will benefit users and the public by reducing harmful content and providing a safe, useful service,” Judge Pitman said, explaining why the injunction was beneficial. “Social media platforms have a First Amendment right to moderate content disseminated on their platforms,” the order reads, citing three separate Supreme Court decisions affirming the principle. “Private companies that use editorial judgment to choose whether to publish content — and, if they do publish content, use editorial judgment to choose what they want to publish — cannot be compelled by the government to publish other content.”

The preliminary injunction came one day before the law was scheduled to take effect. The decision is a blow to Texas lawmakers who alleged Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube censor right-wing views. The state law was motivated in part by the social media suspensions of former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Technology trade groups that represent the major social media companies challenged the law signed in September by Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), saying it would chill the First Amendment rights of corporations to “exercise their own editorial discretion and to be free from state-compelled speech." “Texas’ law would have forced online platforms to pull the referees from social media sites, giving anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, and insurrectionists free reign,” said Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich. “Today’s court decision is a big victory for social media users who want less hate speech and misinformation in their online communities.”

Federal judge blocks Texas law that would have opened doors for right-wing lawsuits against social media Federal court blocks Texas law banning ‘viewpoint discrimination’ on social media (The Verge)