This Ruling Could Change How The Internet Works

( Social media companies were dealt a major blow late last week, when a federal court of appeals upheld a Texas law that deals with social media platforms.

The law, known as HB20, seeks to prevent social media platforms from being able to remove posts from their site, if that removal could be viewed in a light of discriminating against a person’s “viewpoint.”

In its decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, ruled that HB20 doesn’t violate any rights that social media giants have under the First Amendment.

The Big Tech companies — and many groups that are on their side — have argued in court that Texas’ law is not constitutional. They further say the platforms have a right to not be the host for any speech that they believe is objectionable, per the First Amendment.

The law applies to any social media company that has more than 50 million total users. That includes all of the giants such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Essentially, it would prevent these companies from enforcing rules that they have established specifically regarding content on their platform. Specifically, users who have their content blocked could claim that they were just expressing political beliefs, for instance.

While HB20 is just a Texas-based law now, it could serve as a model for other states to pass similar laws in the future. That’s why so many people are paying attention to how this case proceeds, as it could end up in front of the Supreme Court.

The reason for the likely rise to the highest court in the land is that a separate federal appeals court back in May struck down a law in Florida that is very similar to that of Texas. The conflicting appeals court rulings could lead the Supreme Court to weigh in on the topic.

According to Texas’ law, social media platforms are prohibited from acting to “block, ban, remove, de-platform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression.”

The law says that both the attorney general in Texas as well as individuals have a right to sue any social media platform if they believe they’ve violated the law.

In the latest ruling in the Texas case, the judges wrote:

“Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”

And Andrew Stephen Oldham, a judge on the panel that was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote:

“[The Texas law] does not chill speech; if anything, it chills censorship.”

There are others on the opposite side who disagree vehemently, though. As the Computer & Communications Industry Association’s president, Matt Schruers, said:

“We strongly disagree with the court’s decision. Forcing private companies to give equal treatment to all viewpoints on their platforms places foreign propaganda and extremism on equal footing with decent Internet users, and places Americans at risk.

“‘God Bless America’ and ‘Death to America’ are both viewpoints, and it is unwise and unconstitutional for the State of Texas to compel a private business to treat those the same.”