Tech groups ask Supreme Court to overturn Texas social media law

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Two Washington-based groups representing Google, Facebook and other tech giants filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on Friday, seeking to block a Texas law banning social media companies from removing posts based on a user’s political ideology.

The Texas law went into effect Wednesday after the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans lifted a district court injunction blocking it. The appeals court’s action shocked the industry, which has largely succeeded in resisting efforts by Republican state leaders to regulate the content modification policies of social media companies.

In their Supreme Court filing, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) argue that the law is unconstitutional and risks causing “irreparable harm” to the Internet and businesses, according to a press release.

NetChoice’s counsel, Chris Marshes, said in a statement that the law “strips private online businesses of expression rights, prevents them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions, and compels them to post and promote objectionable content.” left standing, [the Texas law] It will turn the First Amendment upside down – to violate free speech, the government only needs to claim that it is “protecting it.”

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The application presents before the nation’s highest court a battle over the future of online discourse that has been vexing policymakers in Washington and in the role of the state. As lawmakers across the country increasingly call for regulating content-modification policies in Silicon Valley, they are at odds with the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from regulating speech.

The application was submitted to Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was nominated to court by Republican President George W. Bush.

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The Texas law, which Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed in September, reflects a growing push by Republicans in the state’s role – while remaining a minority in Washington – to advance their accusations that tech companies are biased against their ideology. The law enables Texas residents and the state’s attorney general to sue social media companies that have more than 50 million users in the United States if they believe they have been unfairly banned or censored. The law also requires tech companies, including Facebook and Google’s YouTube, to set up a complaints system so that people can challenge or report removal decisions on illegal activity.

The law was initially blocked by a federal district judge. But in a surprise decision Wednesday evening, the appeals court overturned the judge’s temporary injunction – which had allowed the law to go into effect while a lower court continued to litigate over its benefits. In submitting an emergency application to the Supreme Court, tech trade groups are seeking to overturn that decision.

The law reflects longtime conservative claims that social media companies in Silicon Valley are “censoring” them. The companies deny the accusations, but the accusations have become central to Republican political messaging. Elon Musk’s recent accusations that Twitter has a “strong left bias” amid its takeover of the company have fueled these allegations.

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Florida last year passed a similar social media law, which has been barred from taking effect. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit heard the state’s appeal last month but did not issue a ruling.

Legal experts and technology groups have largely argued that such laws are inconsistent with the First Amendment. They also warn that they may make it more difficult for companies to remove harmful and hateful content.

“Government officials should not direct any online platform, website, or newspaper to carry a specific letter,” CCIA President Matt Schroers said in a statement to The Washington Post. “While opinions may differ about whether online platforms should host views such as hate speech or Nazi propaganda, the First Amendment leaves that choice to citizens and businesses, not bureaucrats.”

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