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(Fixed most of the 2-1 judgment in the second paragraph)
By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – A U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a Texas law banning major social media companies from banning or censoring users based on “opinion,” a setback for tech industry groups for… that this measure will turn platforms into dangerous content bases.
The mostly 2-1 ruling by the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, creates the potential for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the law, something conservatives and commentators alike. Right-wing commentators consider it necessary to prevent “Big Tech” from suppressing their views.
“Today we reject the idea that companies have First Amendment freedoms to censor what people say,” said Judge Andrew Oldham, former President Donald Trump’s appointee. Trump, wrote in the ruling.
The Texas law was passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature and signed by the Republican governor.
Tech groups that challenged the law and succumbed to Friday’s ruling include NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which includes Facebook’s Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:), Twitter (NYSE:) and Alphabet (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc’s YouTube as a member.
They sought to protect users’ right to regulate content when they believed it could lead to violence, citing concerns that unregulated platforms would facilitate extremists such as Nazi supporters, terrorists and hostile foreign governments.
The association on Friday said it disagreed with forcing private companies to treat all views equally. “God Bless America” and “Death to America” are both views, and it is unconstitutional for the state of Texas to force a private business to treat it the same,” it said in a statement.
Some conservatives have labeled the activities of social media companies as abusive, pointing to Twitter’s permanent suspension of Trump from the platform shortly after the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. of the United States by a mob of his supporters. Twitter cited “the risk of further inciting violence” as the reason.
Texas law prohibits social media companies with at least 50 million monthly active users from “censoring” users based on “opinion” and allows users or the Texas attorney general to sue to enforce the law.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Twitter hailed the ruling as a “huge victory for the constitution and freedom of speech.”
Since the 5th Street ruling contradicts part of the 11th Street ruling, the breached parties have a stronger case for asking the Supreme Court to hear the matter.
In May, Circuit 11, based in Atlanta, found that most similar Florida laws violate companies’ freedom of speech and cannot be enforced.
(This story corrects the majority of the 2-1 verdict in the second paragraph)