Tech companies have filed a lawsuit to put a stop to the Texas moderation ban law. They want to block the law.
Earlier this month, Texas passed a law banning social media from moderating the content on their networks. This came right after the Supreme Court of the United States gave the OK for Texas to silence those who even talk about abortions online which has been encouraging mob rule to try and overrun some platforms.
Texas governor, Greg Abbot, defended the law by saying that social media platforms are modern day public squares and, therefore, platforms shouldn’t be banning people for, what he calls, “political viewpoints”. This defence is widely seen as an effort to protect conservative’s long running quest of right to reach and being free of the consequences of what they say online. Opponents of this legislation point out that these are still private companies we are talking about and barring them from moderating content is a violation of the constitution.
More recently, a lawsuit has been filed by NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association. The latter organization is backed by Twitter and Google among others. They want to block the law from taking effect. From the Texas Tribune:
The state cannot force platforms to host content they wouldn’t otherwise host, the presidents of NetChoice and CCIA said in a Tuesday meeting with reporters. The law threatens the safety of users, creators and businesses that use platforms to reach their audiences, said NetChoice President and CEO Steve DelBianco.
“They can’t be forced to carry content that violates the community standards that they use to curate a community of online content that suits their advertisers and audience,” DelBianco said.
Experts and critics questioned the Texas law’s legality throughout the legislative process. State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, previously said HB 20 could be a “slippery slope” to government violations of First Amendment rights.
Thomas Leatherbury, the director of the First Amendment Clinic at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, said the law is “extremely intrusive” and violates social media platforms’ right to curate user-generated content in accordance with their terms of service.
“It has all the same flaws that the Florida law did, that has already been held unconstitutional, and then some,” Leatherbury said.
The article makes reference to the mythical “anti-conservative bias” of social media. To date, no evidence ever surfaced of the existence of this “bias”, however, there has been plenty of evidence that social media platforms actually engage in pro conservative bias. Essentially, anti-vaccination posts, client change denialism and more often get promoted heavily due to their added level of “engagement”. In fact, social media is frequently blamed for helping to spread this disinformation. So, generally speaking, the opposite has been found to be true.
Now, whether this lawsuit is successful or not remains to be seen. While the law does seem to be on the side of those filing the lawsuit, there’s the political factor that is currently occupying the US Supreme Court. After all, it was a political decision instead of a legal interpretation that guided the decision to green light the Texas anti-abortion law in the first place. This aspect has shaken the US legal community quite significantly. So, whether or not that could be a factor in this lawsuit is unclear. On the other hand, a similar law in Florida was struck down for being unconstitutional, so there is hope that sanity might prevail here.
At any rate, this is another time that Texas chose to mess with the Internet. So, we’ll get to see how this all plays out.