Federal judge halts Texas social media law

by | Dec 3, 2021 | Internet, Policy

On Wednesday, federal judge Robert Pitman blocked House Bill 20, a bill signed into law in September, that prohibits large social media platforms from censoring a user based on their viewpoints. 

Republican officials like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton championed this bill in the second special session arguing that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are prejudiced against conservatives. 

Nevertheless, according to court documents, Judge Pitman granted the plaintiffs Net Choice and the Computer and Communications Industry a preliminary injunction. And ruled that the First Amendment protects social media companies from moderating content on their platform. 

Pitman also denounced Texas argument that this law would protect individual citizens from discriminatory practices by common carriers. 

“This Court is convinced that social media platforms, or at least those covered by HB 20, curate both users and content to convey a message about the type of community the platform seeks to foster and, as such, exercise editorial discretion over their platform’s content,” Pittman wrote in the court documents. 

The plaintiffs in the case, Net Choice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, are trade companies that operate these platforms who would be affected. Notably, the companies sued the state back in September. 

Both associations are suing the state for violating their First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights. And also argue the law is unconstitutionally vague and violates the commerce clause. 

For context, the state defines a social media platform as any website or app with more than 50 million users, that is open to the public, allows users to create an account, and enables users to communicate with each other. 

“Today’s order protects private businesses from state-compelled speech that would force social media to carry horrible content against their community standards,” President of NetChoice and CEO Steve DelBianco said in a statement.

kennedy@texassignal.com | + posts

Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.

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