EFF Tells Court to Block Texas Moderation Ban Law

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief saying that the Texas Moderation ban law is unconstitutional.

Last month, we brought you the news that Texas passed a moderation ban bill. The law outlaws platforms from banning users for so-called “political viewpoints”. Many point out that these platforms are private companies and that this is unconstitutional. Later that month, a lawsuit was filed to block the moderation ban law from coming into force.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed an amicus brief, telling the court to block the enforcement of this law. The EFF says that the law is unconstitutional. From the EFF:

A new Texas law, which Texas Governor Greg Abbott said would stop social media companies that “silence conservative viewpoints and ideas,” restricts large platforms from removing or moderating content based on the viewpoint of the user. The measure, HB 20, is unconstitutional and should not be enforced, we told a federal court in Texas in an amicus brief filed Oct. 15.

In NetChoice v. Paxton, two technology trade associations sued Texas to prevent the law from going into effect. Our brief, siding with the plaintiffs, explains that the law forces popular online platforms to publish speech they don’t agree with or don’t want to share with their users. Its broad restrictions would destroy many online communities that rely on moderation and curation. Platforms and users may not want to see certain kinds of content and speech that is legal but still offensive or irrelevant to them. They have the right under the First Amendment to curate, edit, and block everything from harassment to opposing political viewpoints.

Contrary to HB 20’s focus, questionable content moderation decisions are in no way limited to conservative American speakers. In 2017, for example, Twitter disabled the verified account of Egyptian human rights activist Wael Abbas. That same year, users discovered that Twitter had marked tweets containing the word “queer” as offensive. Recent reporting has highlighted how Facebook failed to enforce its policies against hate speech and promotion of violence, or even publish those policies, in places like Ethiopia.

The EFF goes on to say that the law would also further entrench the large tech giants.

While there is optimism that this effort might succeed given the precedence set in the similar Florida law, there is also the fact that upper courts have become increasingly political and being less shy at throwing caselaw out the window. We’ve seen this in two rulings already where the Supreme Court allowed the unconstitutional anti-abortion law to stand. They also rejected the Department of Justice’s effort to block enforcement of the law, again siding with politics and thumbing their nose at the law in the process thanks to the Republican majority on the bench.

That politics over the rule of law was even found on the appeals level when the anti-abortion law was allowed to stand as well.

We’ll, of course, wait and see which side wins out: politics or the rule of law. Lately, politics is winning out a lot, so it’s looking pretty bad these days.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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