Court of Appeals reinstates Texas law targeting social media companies

Court of Appeals reinstates Texas law targeting social media companies

Texas law became the first law of its kind to bar major social media companies from removing political speech, which went into effect Wednesday, raising complex questions about compliance with the rules for major web platforms.

The law, which applies to social media platforms in the United States with 50 million or more monthly active users, was passed by lawmakers last year who charged a fee to remove posts from conservative publishers and personalities. Problems with sites like Book and Twitter. The law makes it possible for consumers or the state’s attorney general to sue on online platforms that remove posts because they express a particular point of view.

In a brief ruling Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans overturned an earlier decision barring the state from enforcing the law. Although tech industry groups challenging the law are expected to appeal the decision, it creates uncertainty for major web platforms that may now face legal action when they Decide to remove content for violating their rules.

The shocking decision comes amid a wide-ranging debate in Washington, the State House and foreign capitals over how to balance free expression with online security. Some members of Congress have called for online platforms to be held accountable for promoting misleading advertisements or misinformation about public health. The European Union signed an agreement on legislation last month aimed at fighting misinformation and increasing transparency in the way social media companies operate.

But conservatives say platforms remove too much content – instead of too little. Many of them welcomed Elon Musk’s recent Twitter acquisition because it promised mild speech restrictions. When the site banned President Donald J. Trump after the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, Republicans in the State House proposed legislation on how companies enforce their policies.

“My office has just won another major victory against BIG TECH,” Texas Attorney General and Republican Ken Paxton said in a tweet after the law was restored. Mr Paxton’s spokesman did not provide details on how the attorney general planned to enforce the law.

Florida passed a bill last year that fined companies if they removed the accounts of some political candidates, but a federal judge barred them from taking effect after a lawsuit was filed against tech industry groups. Gave The Texas bill takes a slightly different approach, stating that a platform is based on “the user’s or another person’s point of view” to obtain a user’s, user’s expression, or user’s other person’s expression. Can’t censor capacity. “

The law does not prohibit platforms from removing content when they are notified by organizations that track online child sexual abuse, or when it is against someone based on a person’s race or other protected characteristics. “Contains specific risks of violence.” The law also includes provisions that require online platforms to be transparent about their moderation policies.

When the Texas governor signed the state law into law in September, the tech industry sued to stop it. He argued that the ban on platforms violated his right to free speech to remove anything objectionable.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas overturned the law in December, saying it violated the Constitution. When the appellate court overturned the district court’s decision on Wednesday, it did not weigh in on the merits of the law.

“We are considering our options and intend to make an immediate appeal against the order,” said Carl Szabo, vice president of NetChoice, a group that provides funding through companies including Google, Meta and Twitter.

A Facebook and Twitter spokesman declined to comment on his plans.

Jamil Jaffer, executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, who submitted briefings opposing the laws in Texas and Florida, said it was “really disturbing” that the appeals court apparently bought Texas’ argument. This law was legally valid. .

“Accepting this view means giving the government tremendous power to distort or manipulate online conversations,” he said.

Critics of the law say they believe it would bind platforms: leave out false information and racist content or face legal action in Texas. Former Google lawyer Daphne Keller, who is now director of the Platform Regulation Program at Stanford University’s Cyber ​​Policy Center, said the company’s compliance with the law would “drastically change the service they offer.”

Ms Keller said companies could consider limiting access to their websites in Texas. But it is unclear whether the move violates the law.

“If you’re a company, I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Can we do that?'” He said. “The question then is how it will play out in the eyes of the people.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.