Tech groups ask Supreme Court to block Texas social media law

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Two Washington groups representing Google, Facebook and other tech giants filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court on Friday to try to block a Texas law that bars social media companies from removing users based on their political ideology post.

The Texas law went into effect Wednesday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans lifted a district court injunction. The appeals court lawsuit has shocked an industry that has largely succeeded in blocking efforts by Republican state leaders to regulate social media companies’ content moderation policies.

According to a press release, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) argued in a Supreme Court filing that the law is unconstitutional and has the potential to cause “irreparable harm” to the internet and businesses.

NetChoice’s legal counsel, Chris Marchese, said in a statement that the law “denies private online businesses their right to speech, prohibits them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions, and compels them to publish and promote objectionable content.” stand left, [the Texas law] Would subvert the First Amendment – a violation of free speech, the government only needs to claim to “protect” it. “

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The filing brings to the U.S. Supreme Court a debate over the future of online speech that has dogged policymakers in Washington and state legislatures. As lawmakers across the country increasingly call for regulation of Silicon Valley’s content moderation policies, they are running afoul of the First Amendment, which bans government-regulated speech.

The application was filed with Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., nominated by Republican President George W. Bush.

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The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in September, reflects a growing push by Republicans in the state capitol — although they remain a minority in Washington — to advance them Allegations that tech companies are biased against their ideology. The law enables Texas residents and the state’s attorney general to sue social media companies with more than 50 million users in the United States if they believe they have been unfairly banned or censored. The law also requires tech companies, including Facebook and Google’s YouTube, to set up complaint systems so that people can challenge decisions to take down or flag illegal activity.

The law was initially blocked from taking effect by a federal district judge. But in a surprise decision Wednesday night, the appeals court lifted the judge’s interim injunction — allowing the law to take effect while lower courts continue to litigate on its merits. Tech trade groups are seeking to reverse the decision in an emergency petition to the Supreme Court.

The law reflects longstanding claims by conservatives that Silicon Valley social media companies are “censoring” them. The companies deny the allegations, but they have become central to Republicans’ political messages. Elon Musk’s recent accusation of Twitter of “strong left-wing bias” during his acquisition of the company has only fueled those claims.

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Florida passed a similar social media law last year that was blocked from taking effect. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit heard the state’s appeal last month, but has not yet ruled.

Legal experts and the tech community largely believe such laws violate the First Amendment. They also warned that they could make it harder for companies to remove harmful and hateful content.

“Government officials should not instruct any online platform, website or newspaper to make certain statements,” CCIA President Matt Schloss said in a statement to The Washington Post. “While there may be differing views on whether online platforms should host views such as hate speech or Nazi propaganda, the First Amendment leaves the choice to private citizens and businesses, not bureaucrats.”

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