Texas law allowing users to sue social networks for censorship is now in effect

The United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has pause an interim order on controversial law HB 20, which another court blocked from taking effect last year. As Houston Public Media note, the state introduced HB 20 last year after prominent conservatives, including Donald Trump, has been blocked on social media sites. Under the law, users will be able to sue major social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly active users like Facebook and Twitter if they believe they are banned because of their political views. HB 20 also prohibits social networks from removing or restricting content based on “the views of the user or others.”

Commercial industry groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) managed to secure an injunction against the law last year. They argued that HB 20 would lead to the spread of misinformation and hate speech on social media and that it also violated First Amendment rights of websites. The federal judge overseeing the case agreed that social networks have First Amendment rights to censor content and also speak that parts of the law are “forbidden to be ambiguous.”

In a hearing for an appeal filed by Texas, state attorneys general argued that social media platforms are “modern-day public squares.” That means they may be asked to host content they deem objectionable and are prohibited from censoring certain views. The 5th Circuit judges sided with Texas, with one even telling trade groups during the hearing that social networks like Twitter are not websites but “internet providers” instead.

NetChoice attorney Chris Marchese called HB 20 “an attack on the First Amendment” and “constitutionally corrupt from top to bottom” on Twitter. Trade groups plan to appeal immediately, but for now, HB 20 is in full effect.

A federal court blocked a similar law in Florida last year after a judge ruled it violated Section 230 of the Discipline in Information Act that protects online platforms from liability. authority over what their users post. Florida has also appealed that decision, which will be decided by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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