Last year, Texas House representatives voted in favour of a bill that was effectively a copy of one in Florida to prohibit social media platforms from moderating based on “viewpoints”. It was blocked by a judge in December after two tech industry trade groups argued it was unconstitutional. Obviously.
Earlier this week, a panel of judges voted two to one to lift the injunction and allow the government of Texas to enforce that law.
Ken White on Twitter:
See, the Texas law lets the AG, or any aggrieved user, sue if they think the site censored improperly, and get attorney fees and costs and injunctions if they win. If the Texas law stands, there’s no more saying “it’s Twitter’s First Amendment right to moderate.”
Say Twitter has a no-swearing policy and I say “@DavidAFrench has a shit-ass opinion about Aquaman.” Twitter suspends me. All I have to do is sue and claim Twitter’s REAL reason for censoring me is my viewpoint on David, or Aquaman, not my swearing. Twitter has to litigate it
This will be made easier because automated moderation on scale is always difficult and usually inconsistent and I will be able to point to other times when non-anti-Aquaman swears weren’t punished. And people ALWAYS think they’re being singled out. It’s in the GOP Platform.
It’s even worse Ken since the law prohibits moderation of posts based on viewpoints expressed on OR OFF the site. So even if the post itself expresses no viewpoint, a litigious plaintiff can claim that the action was a response to some viewpoint they expressed somewhere else.
Mike Masnick, Techdirt:
There are many more problems with this law, but I am perplexed at how anyone could possibly think this is either workable or Constitutional. It’s neither. The only proper thing to do would be to shut down in Texas, but again the law treats that as a violation itself. What an utter monstrosity.
Unsurprisingly, the tech industry trade groups are going to be asking the Supreme Court to deal with this completely deranged law.
Issie Lapowsky, Protocol:
Tech groups fighting Texas’s social media “censorship” law may file an emergency application with the Supreme Court as early as Friday, according to two sources familiar with the case. The groups, NetChoice and CCIA, have said they plan to ask the justices to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s Wednesday ruling, which lifted an injunction on the Texas law, allowing it to go into effect and prompting panic throughout the tech industry.
NetChoice and CCIA are now soliciting amicus briefs in their application to be filed by next week. NetChoice did not respond to Protocol’s request for comment. CCIA wouldn’t confirm its plans, but president Matt Schruers said in a statement, “We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend our constituents’ First Amendment rights. These include the right not to be compelled by the government to carry dangerous content on their platforms.”
It is still shocking to me how many tech companies decided to expand their presence in Texas just to save a little in local taxes. It was not exactly a bastion of reasonable laws and careful thinking before, and then the state government there went and got their technology policy arguments from Florida. What did they think was going to happen?