Computer Giants Try to Block Texas Social Media Law Enforcement

Texas State Capitol
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Computer companies have fired another legal volley in their fight against state efforts to undercut their Sec. 230 immunity from civil liability for most third-party content on social media sites.

The latest volley was a motion for preliminary injunction filed Sep. 30 against Texas for a new law that allows Web users to sue edge providers over how they moderate content.

Trade group the Computer & Communications Industry Association joined with NetChoice to file suit against the law earlier this month, as they had against a similar Florida law.

But that was an underlying law suit. This week's move is to prevent the law--scheduled to go into effect Dec. 2--from being enforced while that underlying suit is being litigated.

There is a pretty high bar for granting a preliminary injunction, including likelihood of winning the case and irreparable harm if the law goes into effect.

Computer companies said the loss of their First Amendment freedom to moderate and curate content as they choose is clearly such an irreparable harm and that because such an abridgement is unconstitutional they are likely to win their case.

The law, 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.

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.“

John Eggerton

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.