Subscribe to The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to date on the most essential news from Texas.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a Republican-backed Texas law that bars large social media companies from banning users for their political views.
The decision hands a victory to Republicans who have long criticized social media platforms like Twitter for what they call anti-conservative bias, disapproval that was amplified when President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter for violating the platform’s rules on inciting to violence during the January 1 elections. 6, 2021, United States Capitol riots.
The order did not test the constitutionality of the law, but instead allows the law to go back into effect while the case progresses through district court, according to a statement of one of the plaintiff groups. The ruling came from a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, often considered the most conservative court of appeals in the country, and was not accompanied by a written opinion explaining the decision in court. time of publication.
Two large industry trade groups representing the likes of Google and Twitter sued to block the law last fall.
In December, a federal district court judge ruled in favor of the groups and blocked the law while the lawsuit continues, arguing that the First Amendment protects a company’s right to moderate content and calling parts of the law “prohibitively wander”. As a result, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the district judge’s decision to the circuit court.
Passed during a special session last year, House Bill 20 also requires social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly users to publicly disclose information about content removals and account suspensions.
“HB 20 is an assault on the First Amendment, and it is constitutionally rotten from top to bottom,” Chris Marchese, an attorney at industry trade group NetChoice, tweeted after the sentence. “So, of course, we are going to appeal today’s unprecedented, inexplicable and unfortunate order through a 2-1 split panel.”
The move comes as businessman Elon Musk is poised to buy Twitter and possibly redo the company’s moderation policies, a move conservatives applaud. Musk recently said that he would restore Trump’s account if the acquisition is completed.
“Sadly, we have a handful of people in America today who want to control the town square, who want to control social media, and who want to enforce silence,” said state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, saying in support of last year’s bill. “If you have a different point of view than theirs, they want to shut you up. That’s not the American way, and that’s not the Texas way.”
The law does not provide any specific civil penalties for breaking the law, other than allowing users to file a lawsuit to recover court costs from the company that violated the law. The law also empowers the attorney general to prosecute violations.
The Texas attorney general’s office said in a tweet late Wednesday that the appeals court made the right decision and said it would continue to uphold the Texas law.
Disclosure: Google has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial sponsors play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a full list of them here.
Tickets are on sale now for the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival, taking place in downtown Austin from September 22-24. Get your TribFest tickets by May 31st and save big!