The bizarre social media law in Texas has been suspended by the Supreme Court

Texas HB20 was shelved by the Supreme Court five to four on Tuesday. As is typical for emergency requests, the majority did not define their rationale; Judge Alito wrote a six-page dissent, joined by Conservative colleagues Gorsuch and Thomas, while Kagan, a moderate, wrote she would “deny the residency application” without signing the dissent.

The bill – which has been in court since it passed through the state Congress and was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott last September – targets “censorship” by online platforms, as conservatives have become accustomed to in recent years each Form of merging content moderation with censorship. Major social platforms are being transformed into “general carriers” similar to telcos, but using this logic to limit the ability of platforms to limit, ban or demonstrate the distribution of content based on “the user’s point of view”. whether or not This view is expressed on the platform.

Unsurprisingly, the content, users, and viewpoints the law’s advocates believe are wrongly skewed to the right: as the Texas Grandstand reported Last year Gov. Abbott said he believes social platforms are working to “silence conservative ideas [and] religious beliefs.” The anger of interested parties and their desired results were not lost on Judge Robert Pitman of the West Texas District Court, who wrote that “the records in this case confirm that lawmakers intended to target major social media platforms that are perceived as biased against conservative views.”

An urgent motion to suspend HB20 has been filed with the Supreme Court earlier this month by two technology industry groups — NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) — after a Fifth Circuit court overturned an injunction against the law in a surprising 2-1 decision for which no explanation was provided. Netchoice members include Airbnb, TikTok, Amazon and Lyft; Apple, Google, eBay, Meta and others rank themselves among those associated with CCIA. NetChoice consultant at the time indicated protocol that the Texas law was “unconstitutional” and would “force online platforms to host and promote foreign propaganda, pornography, pro-Nazi speech and spam.”

Those same concerns took on new urgency after the shooting in Buffalo, New York, in which a gunman with white racial beliefs killed 10 people and injured three others while live-streaming the carnage in a black-majority neighborhood. Social media companies worked to remove copies of the footage from their services. Even while they were doing this, the question remained unclear whether those distances would cause Texas to take those platforms to court. The confusion over the law’s application wasn’t limited to interested observers either: in a Twitter exchange with Techdirt’s Mike Masnick, appeared to be the sponsor of the bill unsure how such situations would develop.

A related law in Florida, which uses a similar common carrier approach, earlier this month had most of its key provisions ruled unconstitutional by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The question of the constitutionality of HB20 continues to advance in the Fifth Circuit Court.

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