The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a Texas law prohibiting large social media companies from banning the speech of users is constitutional.
"Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say," the court ruling Friday said. "Because the district court held otherwise, we reverse its injunction and remand for further proceedings."
According to Lawfare, the NetChoice v. Paxton decision allows Texas law H.B. 20, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in September 2021 to take effect, severely restricting the ability for large social media platforms to moderate or censor users from speech that may hold a different viewpoint or political belief than what the platform may have.
NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) filed a lawsuit saying that the First Amendment also grants companies the right to moderate what content goes out on the platforms.
"We strongly disagree with the court's decision," CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement Friday. "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."
The organization said that it has defended the First Amendment for 25 years, and the ability of companies and corporations to determine what content is appropriate for their communities.
The United States Supreme Court in May voted 5-4 to continue an injunction on the law until the appeals court ruled but may eventually hear the case on its merits.
"This application concerns issues of great importance that will plainly merit this Court's review," Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said in his dissent. "At issue is a ground-breaking Texas law that addresses the power of dominant social media corporations to shape public discussion of the important issues of the day."
Opponents of the law say it will allow for more hate speech and propaganda, including harassment of certain groups.
"Not only is that dangerous, but it throws out years of legal precedent affirming that online platforms have a First Amendment right to decide what appears on their sites," Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich told The Hill.
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