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U.S. Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Texas’ Social Media Content Law

The battle over prohibiting social media platforms from censoring users’ viewpoints took another twist Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court granted an emergency request to block a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision pending legal challenges.

The Court voted 5-4 in a majority mix of two liberal justices and three conservative justices led by Chief Justice John Roberts.

In early May, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals removed a district federal judge’s block on implementation of HB 20 by Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Baytown, a 2021 law which prohibits social media platforms from censoring users’ viewpoints.

The Supreme Court’s decision this week keeps the Texas law from being implemented and allows a lawsuit filed by NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association to make its way through the courts.

“No online platform, website, or newspaper should be directed by government officials to carry certain speech,” CCIA president Matt Schruers said of the Court’s ruling. 

“This has been a key tenet of our democracy for more than 200 years and the Supreme Court has upheld that.”

Last week the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down most of a Florida law targeting large social media platforms that GOP lawmakers say are biased against conservative opinions expressed on them.

"The First Amendment is to some degree up for grabs," University of Chicago law professor and senior visiting research scholar at the Knight First Amendment Institute, Genevieve Lakier, told the Washington Post.

"These old principles are being pushed and pulled and reimagined in light of changing technological conditions and changing political alignments."

In the Florida case, “the Court determined that, as private companies, these platforms could make such decisions without government intervention, and the state cannot penalize them for the content moderation decisions that they make,” said David Oxenford, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer.

Broadcasters should keep up with developments in this court fight because a definitive U.S. Supreme Court ruling, if one comes at a later date, could profoundly alter the social media landscape.

It could be some time, however, before a challenge of the Texas law, or a challenge to similar law such as Florida’s, makes it to the nation’s highest court.

TAB will update broadcasters as court developments warrant.

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

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