Computer companies are suing Texas over a law that prevents social media censorship based on “viewpoint,” saying nothing is a clearer First Amendment violation than regulation based on viewpoint.
The bill, which passed Sept. 9, “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 Google 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.
Trade group the Computer & Communications Industry Association joined with NetChoice to file suit, as CCIA did against a similar Florida law, the CCIA pointed out — that law was ruled unconstitutional, but that decision has been appealed by the state.
Both the Texas and Florida legislatures are controlled by Republicans, many of whom have alleged that social media have been censoring conservative content and voices, pointing to bans on former President Donald Trump's accounts.
CCIA, whose members include from Amazon to Yahoo!, and NetChoice, whose members include, well, from Amazon to Yahoo!, said the Texas bill would “compel private companies to host everything from Nazi propaganda to anti-American extremism or risk being sued,” adding, ”The First Amendment protects citizens and private companies from being compelled to speak.“
CCIA said the law would put Texans at greater risk of being subject to "disinformation, propaganda and extremism."
The computer companies pulled no punches, saying the law makes the internet safer for bad actors, "whether that be Taliban sympathizers or people encouraging kids to eat detergent pods." And while Texas Republicans are nothing if not self-described patriots, CCIA said that "[b]y constraining businesses free speech rights, the Texas law puts anti-American rhetoric [including from Nazis and white supremacists] on equal footing with God Bless America."
The suit was filed in the U.S. Court District Court for the Western District of Texas.
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.
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