Court of Appeals restores Texas law targeting social media companies

Texas’s law banning major social media companies from withdrawing political speeches went into effect Wednesday, raising confusing questions on major forums on the Web about how to follow the rules.

The law, which applies to US social media platforms with 50 million or more users, passed a draft law last year by lawmakers who had issues with sites such as Facebook and Twitter regarding the removal of posts from conservative and personal publishers. The law makes it possible for users or state attorneys to sue online platforms that remove messages because they express certain views.

In a brief ruling Wednesday, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected the ruling. Judge before this page that has ceased enforcement. While tech industry groups challenging the law are expected to appeal the ruling, it creates uncertainty for major web platforms that can now face lawsuits when they decide to remove content that violates their rules.

The ruling comes amid a broader debate in Washington, state and foreign capitals on how to balance free expression with cyber security. Some MPs have made the online platform accountable when they promote discriminatory propaganda or misinformation about public health. The European Union last month reached an agreement on regulations aimed at combating false information and increasing transparency in the way social media companies operate.

But conservatives say the platform removes too much content – rather than too little – content. Many of them praised Elon Musk’s recent Twitter acquisition as he promised less restrictions on speech. When the venue banned President Donald J. Trump after the January 6, 2021, attacks on the Capitol, Republicans in various states proposed legislation to determine how companies implement their policies.

“My office has secured another big victory for BIG TECH,” said Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General for Texas and the Republican Party, in a tweet after the law was restored. Paxton’s spokesman did not provide details on how the lawyer planned to enforce the law.

Florida passed a bill last year that penalized companies if they removed the accounts of some political stakeholders, but a federal judge stopped them from taking effect after a technology industry group filed a lawsuit. The Texas bill takes a slightly different approach, saying the platform “may not censor users, user expressions, or users’ ability to get other people’s opinions” based on “the views of users or others.”

The law does not stop the platform from removing content when they are notified about it by organizations that monitor child online sexual exploitation, or when it “contains a specific threat of violence” against someone based on a person’s race or other protected properties. The law also includes provisions requiring online platforms to be transparent about their moderate policies.

When the governor of Texas signed a state law bill in September, the tech industry sued to block it. It argued that the ban imposed on the platforms violated their freedom of speech to take what they deemed to be opposed.

The Texas West District Court ruled in December. That it violates the Constitution. When the appellate court on Wednesday rejected the district court’s ruling, it did not weigh in on the merits. Of weirs.

Carl Szabo, vice president of NetChoice, a group funded by companies including Google, Meta and Twitter, filed a lawsuit to block the law, said: “We are weighing our options and planning to appeal the order immediately.”

Facebook and Twitter spokespersons declined to comment on their plans.

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at the University of Columbia, which filed the findings in Texas and Florida, said it “‘s really sad” that the appellate court seemed to have bought the Texas argument that the law was legitimate. .

“Accepting the theory is giving the government the power to distort or manipulate online chat,” he said.

Leading critics say they believe it will leave platforms in the lurch: leave untrue news and racist content or face lawsuits across Texas. Daphne Keller, a former Google attorney who is now director of the platform’s regulatory program at Stanford University’s Center for Cyber ​​Policy Center, said the company’s compliance with the law would “significantly change the services they offer.”

Keller said companies could consider restricting access to their website in Texas. It is not clear if the move violates the law.

“If you’re a company, I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Can we?’ She said. “Then there are questions about how to play in the public eye.”

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