Big tech’s ability to control internet expression is rejected by the US Court of Appeals

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Last Updated on September 17, 2022 by Bitfinsider

An appeals court in the US upheld a Texas law on Friday (Sep 16), prohibiting major social media companies from removing or filtering users based on “viewpoint,” which was a blow for groups representing the technology sector who claimed the law would convert platforms into havens for harmful content.

The New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision opens the door for the US Supreme Court to decide whether the law—which conservatives and right-wing pundits have argued is required to prevent “Big Tech” from stifling their views—is constitutional.

The Republican-controlled Texas legislature enacted the bill, and the Republican governor of the state signed it.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, which includes Meta Platforms’ Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube as members, and NetChoice are two tech organizations who contested the law and were unsuccessful in their efforts following Friday’s decision.

They have fought to protect their ability to control user content when they think it might incite violence, claiming worries that unchecked platforms might assist extremists like terrorists, Nazi sympathizers, and hostile foreign governments.

The group stated on Friday that it opposed requiring private businesses to serve all opinions equally. “God Bless America” and “Death to America” are both perspectives, and forcing a private company to treat them equally by the state of Texas is both foolish and unlawful, it claimed in a statement.

Conservatives have criticized the social media companies’ actions as abusive, citing Twitter’s decision to permanently ban Trump from the service soon after his followers attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The “potential of additional inciting of violence” was given as the justification by Twitter.

The Texas law prohibits social media businesses with at least 50 million active users per month from “censoring” individuals based on their “viewpoint,” and it gives users or the Texas attorney general the right to bring legal action to enforce the rule.

The decision was hailed as a “major victory for the constitution and free speech” by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Twitter.

The parties who were wronged have a better argument for asking the Supreme Court to consider the case because the 5th Circuit’s decision disagrees with a portion of an 11th Circuit decision.

The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit court ruled in May that the majority of a Florida statute similar to this one violates the firms’ free speech rights and cannot be enforced.


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