Big Tech Fires Latest Legal Volley at Texas Social Media Law
Brief comes in advance of May oral argument in federal appeals court
Computer companies are telling a federal appeals court that a Texas court made the right call when it granted their request for a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of a Texas law they say unconstitutionally prevents online platforms from exercising editorial discretion based on viewpoint.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice, whose members include Google, Facebook and Twitter, filed a brief in the state of Texas' challenge of the injunction.
The brief came in advance of the planned May 9 oral argument in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on that challenge.
The law, which passed Sept. 9, 2021, “prohibits an interactive computer service from censoring a user, a user’s expression, or a user's ability to receive the expression of another person based on … the viewpoint of the user or another person.” It also requires large social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to disclose how they manage content, to publish an acceptable use policy that users can find telling them what content is acceptable, to publish quarterly transparency reports, and to have a complaint system in place for violations of its policies.
Because the law prevents them from using their editorial discretion based on viewpoint, the companies told the court, it effectively and constitutionally compels them to "publish, display and even recommend all sorts of speech that they deem objectionable and contrary to policies governing their services -- including pro-Nazi speech, terrorist propaganda, Holocaust denial, and misinformation."
They also say the law requires a host of "burdensome" disclosure mandates including notice each time they remove speech from their platforms.
"Governments have no business dictating what speech must appear online. Digital services are constantly combating foreign disinformation, propaganda, and anti-American extremism," CCIA said. "Turning Texas into an online safe space for these adversaries puts Americans at risk from these evolving online threats." ■
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
By Kent Gibbons