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Texas Federal Appeals Court To Hear Arguments In Social Media Platform Censorship Lawsuit

A Texas federal appeals court is slated to hear oral arguments next week in a lawsuit involving HB 20, a measure passed in a 2021 summer special session by Texas GOP lawmakers who say large social media platforms are biased against conservative opinions expressed on them.

HB 20, authored by Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Baytown, prohibits social media platforms from censoring users’ viewpoints.

Cain and others say conservative views are being squashed online without the law.

Opponents say it will legalize hate speech.

David Oxenford, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer said the law requires “platforms to publish an acceptable use policy and remove content that violates the policy. 

The law gives the Texas Attorney General or an individual user the right to bring a legal action against a platform.” 

A lower court federal judge blocked the law in December a day before it was to take effect. 

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said social media platforms have a right to moderate content under the First Amendment. 

He deemed aspects of HB 20 “prohibitively vague.”

Tom Leatherbury, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Vinson Elkins LLP, and the director of SMU’s Dedman School of Law First Amendment Clinic, told the Texas Tribune last fall that “the law is clearly unconstitutional.” 

So why should broadcasters care about the outcome in this case?

“This decision (and decisions already under consideration in states like Florida) could have broader implications on a state’s rights to pass laws trying to guarantee access to media platforms,” said Oxenford. 

“Even a limited decision could affect broadcast stations active on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.”

TAB will update broadcasters as court developments warrant.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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