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“Despite Texas’ best efforts to flout the First Amendment, it failed in the Supreme Court,” said Chris Marchese, attorney at NetChoice.

“We are encouraged that this assault on First Amendment rights has been halted until a court can fully assess the repercussions of Texas’ ill-conceived law,” CCIA Chairman Matt Schruers said in a statement. a statement.

HB 20 prohibits social media platforms from moderating content based on users’ “point of view”. The law seeks to punish online services for Republicans’ insistence on censoring conservative content — an approach that has raised significant constitutional concerns and could undermine the platforms’ years of efforts to combat hate speech and harmful misinformation.

Texas has argued that it seeks to ensure its residents can speak freely in popular forums by forcing these platforms to “carry” all viewpoints or face a flood of lawsuits from users who may claim that they have been “censored”. But a broad coalition of legal scholars has concluded that it is the state that is trying to impose sanctions on private actors for their management of content, in clear violation of US free speech protections.

NetChoice and CCIA, which both represent social media companies, filed a lawsuit to stop the law, and a federal district court suspended the rollout due to the likelihood that the law would violate the First Amendment. An appeals court, however, allowed the measure to take effect earlier this month as proceedings in the lower court are ongoing. Appeals court judges cleared the way for the law after a hearing in which they appeared to struggle with basic technology concepts, including whether or not Twitter is a website.

“The Supreme Court noting the constitutional risks of this law is important not just for online businesses and free speech, but a key principle for democratic countries,” Schruers said. “No online platform, website or newspaper should be run by government officials to broadcast certain speeches. It has been a key tenet of our democracy for over 200 years, and the Supreme Court has upheld it.

The court’s decision to block the law came from an unusual coalition: Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. Judge Elena Kagan, a vocal critic of the Shadow Record, denied the request to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, but notably did not join the conservative justices in their dissent, authored by Judge Alito.

Although NetChoice and its allies cited cases as recent as 2019, Alito wrote that he, Thomas and Gorsuch were unsure how “existing precedents, which predate the Internet age , should apply to large social media companies”. Thomas, in particular, has previously expressed support for treating social media platforms like common carriers.

Alito argued that it was plausible that the Texas law’s disclosure requirements were constitutional and that the law was too new to assess at this point. In his dissent, Alito also suggested that he agreed with Texas that by invoking Section 230 and seeking not to be considered publishers of user posts, platforms give up the kinds of robust free speech protections that speakers normally get.

The dissent also signaled that the High Court might not be done with the matter. Shortly after NetChoice sought its emergency ruling from the Supreme Court, another appeals court upheld most of an injunction on a similar Florida law. A potential split in the circuit could force the Supreme Court to take up the issue again. “This motion concerns matters of great importance which will clearly merit the consideration of this Court,” Alito wrote.