Court reinstates Texas social media law against banning users for views

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A 3D printed Twitter logo over non-3D printed Twitter logos is seen in this illustration taken April 28, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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  • Law prohibits major social media companies from banning users for political views
  • Florida appeals ruling against similar law

(Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Wednesday cleared a Texas law barring major social media platforms from banning users based on their political views from taking effect while the state appeals a lower court order blocking it.

The 5th panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not explain its reasoning for granting the state’s request to stay a December order by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, Texas, which concluded that the 1st Amendment rights of social media companies would be harmed. allowing the law to take effect.

The order included a footnote stating that the three-judge panel, made up of circuit judges Edith Jones, Leslie Southwick and Andrew Oldham, was not unanimous, although it did not specify how it was split. The judges were nominated by former Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively.

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An attorney for the plaintiffs challenging the law — internet lobby groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), whose members include Twitter, Facebook and Google — did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither does Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, which defends the law.

The groups’ lawsuit challenges a law, signed by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott in September, prohibiting social media companies with more than 50 million monthly active users from banning members based on their political views and requiring them to publicly disclose how they moderate content. .

Abbott said at the time that the law responded to “a dangerous move by social media companies to silence conservative views and ideas.”

NetChoice and CCIA said in their lawsuit that the law violated their right to free speech under the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution by preventing them from exercising editorial discretion on their private platforms.

Pitman agreed, rejecting the state’s argument that social media companies were passive conduits for third parties like cable companies, and concluding that they were entitled to protections similar to those enjoyed by newspapers.

Conservatives have widely criticized social media companies for what they see as censorship of their political views, including Trump’s removal from major platforms. Billionaire Tesla owner Elon Musk cited his own opposition to censorship as a reason to buy Twitter and said he would reinstate Trump.

Florida also passed a law preventing large social media companies from banning posts by or about political candidates, which was struck down by a district court. The 11th Circuit heard that state’s appeal last month.

The case is NetChoice LLC v. Paxton, 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-51178.

For Complainants: Scott Keller of Lehotsky Keller

For the State: Deputy Solicitor General Ryan Baasch

Read more:

Musk says he would overturn Twitter ban on Donald Trump

Florida fights in court to revive law restricting social media bans

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Brendan Pierson

Thomson Reuters

Brendan Pierson advises on product liability litigation and all areas of healthcare law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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