Skip to main content

Big Tech Warns of Texas Fairness Doctrine for Edge

Social media icons on a blue background
(Image credit: Serdarbayraktar via Getty Images)

A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court has lifted a preliminary injunction against a Texas law tech companies say unconstitutionally prevents online platforms from exercising editorial discretion based on viewpoint.

That is according to the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which said a split panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had sided with the state of Texas, which had challenged the injunction imposed by a Texas U.S. District court judge back in December.

CCIA and NetChoice filed the lawsuit challenging the law in May of last year.

Also: Big Tech Fires Latest Legal Volley at Texas Social Media Law

That appeals court decision means the law could go into effect while that underlying lawsuit by computer companies is adjudicated.

"As a result of today’s order, Texas could soon seek to enforce its 'Fairness Doctrine for the Internet' against leading digital services, which invites unwarranted and unnecessary governmental intrusion into Americans’ online experience," the CCIA said.

The law, which passed a Republican-controlled legislature September 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.

CCIA said the order lifting the injunction did not go to the merits of the appeal and had no written decision accompanying it.

“This unexplained order contravenes established First Amendment law," said CCIA President Matt Schruers. "No option is off the table. We will do what is necessary to ensure that the free market, not government fiat, decides what speech digital services do and do not disseminate.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have been critical of Big Tech, but often for different reasons. Republicans argue that social media sites have censored protected conservative speech, while Democrats generally support what they see as weeding out disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech. Democrats' issues with Big Tech are more about privacy, algorithmic discrimination, lack of sufficient child protections, and not enough weeding out of dangerous speech. ■

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.