A ‘radical’ ruling allows Texas to ban censorship of social media

Federal appeal The court restored a Texas law that forbids “censorship” on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, allowing Texas to enforce the law while the lawsuit continues.

A judge of the United States District Court issued a preliminary order block the law in December, ruled that it violated the social network’s First Amendment right to moderate user-submitted content. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and a panel of three judges ruled. rule That Wednesday is still a preliminary order.

The ruling did not explain the judges’ reasoning. The ruling said: “The appellant’s objection requesting to remain in the preliminary order pending an appeal will be admissible. The panel’s ruling was not unanimous, but it did not specify how each judge voted.

The verdict is “staggeringly radical,” speak Corbin Barthold, internet policy adviser at TechFreedom, a libertarian think tank, filed a brief of the case in court. “Social media companies now face the prospect of being held accountable for discriminating on the basis of ‘opinion.’ (For example, dealing with pro-ISIS content is different from anti-ISIS content.) But there are other difficulties in applying the law. No one — not an attorney, not a judge, not an expert in the field, not even a sponsor of the law itself — knows what compliance with this law looks like,” Barthold said.

In one tweetPaxton called the ruling a “HUGE WIN against BIG TECH,” adding, “I look forward to continuing to defend the constitutionality of HB 20. State law states that “social media platforms may not censor users” based on the “opinion” of a user, and defines “moderator” as “blocking, banning, deleting, de-conforming, cancel, de-enhance, restrict, deny equal access or visibility, or discriminate against expression. The law says, the Texas attorney general or users can sue social media platforms that violate this ban and win the relief and reimbursement required by the order.

Judge “Struggling with Basic Technology Concepts”

Oral debates are being held this Monday and the judges “appear to be struggling with basic technological concepts” Reported protocol. The judges cast doubt on the arguments of technology industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications & Industry Association (CCIA), which sued Texas to block the law. One “judge held that Twitter wasn’t even a website, and another wondered if phone companies had a First Amendment right to remove people from their service,” writes Protocol. .

“Your customers are internet providers,” judge Edith Jones told lawyers for NetChoice and CCIA. “They’re not websites.” The members of the two groups are in fact almost entirely online websites and services rather than internet service providers — see members of NetChoice this and CCIA’s this. Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Yahoo are all members of both groups.

At another point in the hearing, “Judge Andrew Oldham suggested that if the technology platforms were successful, it would allow phone companies to initiate users,” Protocol reported. “In your theory, could Verizon decide that they would eavesdrop on every phone call… and when they hear speech they don’t like, they end the call?” Oldham asked.

Telephone companies are classified as regular service providers and are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. No such designation applies to the websites, although Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has Debate that digital platforms can be regulated like regular service providers.

CNN technology reporter Brian Fung also detailed the confusion of the Fifth Round judges in a Twitter thread. Oldham called Twitter’s First Amendment power to ban certain types of speech “unusual,” even though the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech applies to Congress, not to members of the public. Private company. The tech groups’ attorney, Scott Keller, points out that “when it comes to private organisations, governments don’t have the power to dictate what they must disseminate, what they cannot disseminate,” according to the document. Fung’s account.

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