Dallas, Texas – On Friday, a federal appeals court issued a ruling in favor of a Texas legislation that targets big social media corporations like Facebook and Twitter. The decision was a triumph for Republicans who accuse the platforms of restricting content that is conservative in nature.
However, the decision that was handed down by the 5th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is not likely to be the final word in a legal battle that has stakes that extend beyond the state of Texas and that may have an effect on how some of the largest technology companies in the world regulate content that is created by their customers.
The Texas law, which was passed and brought into effect by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in the previous year, is being contested by industry trade groups in the field of information technology. These groups fear that the rule will restrict platforms from deleting extremism and hate speech. A statute somewhat identical to this one was also passed in Florida, where it was reviewed by a different appeals court and found to be unconstitutional.
The United States Supreme Court is expected to have the final word on the matter, as it did earlier this year when it put a temporary hold on the law in Texas while the lawsuit was processed.
According to the opinion written by Judge Andrew Oldham of the United States Circuit Court, “today we reject the concept that companies have an unconstrained First Amendment right to restrict what people say.”
In a statement, one of the organizations that is contesting the law, NetChoice, voiced their dissatisfaction with the result, which pointed out that the ruling was the reverse of the decision made in the litigation over the law in Florida.
According to Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, “We remain convinced that when the United States Supreme Court considers one of our cases, it will preserve the First Amendment rights of websites, platforms, and apps.”
Legislation similar to that which was passed in Florida and Texas, which sought to portray social media companies as generally liberal in outlook and hostile to ideas that did not adhere to that viewpoint, particularly those held by political conservatives, has received support from Republican elected officials in a number of states.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in May that it is unclear how the previous First Amendment cases that the Supreme Court has dealt with, many of which were decided before the advent of the internet, apply to digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.
If the proposed legislation were to become law in Florida, it would provide the state’s attorney general with the right to file lawsuits against businesses for violating the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Additionally, it would make it possible for citizens to sue social media corporations for damages of up to one hundred thousand dollars in the event that they believe they have been treated unfairly.
The statute in Texas only applies to the most popular social networking networks, those with more than 50,000 actively using the service at any given time.