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American News May 14, 2022 11:34 PM EST

Tech advocacy groups appeal Texas social media law

Texas Governor Greg Abbot says the law provides protection for users against ad-hoc decisions to remove or ban points-of-view platform managers disagree with.

Tech advocacy groups appeal Texas social media law
Leonardo Briceno The Post Millennial

Pro-tech advocacy groups are calling on the highest court in the US to strike down a law they say is detrimental to online media platforms' integrity.

Net Choice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which represent clients like Google and Facebook, filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon.

They’re looking to overturn Texas House Bill 20 (HB20) which would allow residents of the state to sue platforms with 50,000 users or more if they believe they’ve been unfairly banned or had their account unjustly removed. The law would also require platforms to create an effective means for users to appeal the removal of their content.

It’s a policy that gives teeth to displaced users and could be a major headache for platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and others. And as of last week, it’s on the books.

The law was put on hold once by a district court injunction. Net Choice and the CCIA didn’t expect to deal with it again; appeals courts rarely side against tech platforms on matters of content moderation.

But the Fifth Circuit court did what the advocacy groups least expected and lifted the hold on the law.

Chris Marchese, legal counsel for NetChoice, said the law will hurt online users.

In a statement, he said it "strips private online businesses of their speech rights, forbids them from making constitutionally-protected editorial decisions, and forces them to publish and promote objectionable content."

In their Supreme Court filing, the CCIA uses even stronger language, saying the bill is an "unprecedented assault on the editorial discretion of private websites that would fundamentally transform their business models and services."

"Thus, HB20 would compel platforms to disseminate all sorts of objectionable viewpoints—such as Russia’s propaganda claiming that its invasion of Ukraine is justified, ISIS propaganda claiming that extremism is warranted, neo-Nazi or KKK screeds denying or supporting the Holocaust, and encouraging children to engage in risky or unhealthy behavior like eating disorders," the filing reads.

Proponents of the law, like Texas Governor Greg Abbot, say it gives users protection against ad-hoc decisions to remove, or ban points-of-view, which platform managers disagree with.

When the HB20 was first signed into law, Abbott said its implementation would help protect free speech.

"Social media websites have become our modern-day public square. They are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely — but there is a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas," Governor Abbott told reporters in September.

"That is wrong, and we will not allow it in Texas."

It's now up to the Supreme Court to leave the law in place or take up the case for a future hearing.

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