A law to protect individual free speech on social media has been halted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
In September, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 20 into law in an effort to limit the effects of freedom of speech moderation by large social media platforms.
This law sought to hold social media companies accountable to the citizens they were deplatforming for personal political views, following the notable revocation of high-profile conservatives from social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, including former President Donald Trump.
House Bill 20 also allowed for citizens to sue the social media platforms for wrongful termination and went a long way toward prohibiting censorship by social media giants.
“A social media platform may not censor a user, a user’s expression, or a user’s ability to received the expression of another person based on: 1) the viewpoint of the user or another person; 2) the viewpoint represented in the user’s expression or another person’s expression; or 3) a user’s geographic location in this state or any part of this state,” reads the bill.
Late Wednesday, just one day before the law was set to go into effect, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman ruled in favor of Netchoice, LLC—an organization that argued that the Texas law violates the editorial discretion of social media platforms—and granted a preliminary injunction to halt the Texas law.
Netchoice’s member list includes social media platforms—like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube—that would be affected by the Texas law. The companies would be required to increase public transparency in their moderation process and the banning of moderation or “fact-checking” of comments and posts unless the posts were related to illegal sexual content or were inciting violence.
An Obama appointee, Judge Pitman has a history of halting Texas laws, having also blocked the Texas Heartbeat Act in October and allowing the University of Texas to continue their race-based admissions practices, also known as affirmative action, in July.
This decision is expected to be appealed by Ken Paxton and the State of Texas to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.