The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has dealt a victory to free speech advocates in the Lone Star State.
On Friday, the Court upheld a law—House Bill 20—passed by the Texas Legislature last year designed to prohibit viewpoint discrimination on social media websites.
In the opinion, 5th Circuit Judge Andrew Oldham said the Court “reject[s] the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”
The decision was celebrated by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who called it a “MASSIVE VICTORY for the Constitution & Free Speech[.]”
BREAKING: I just secured a MASSIVE VICTORY for the Constitution & Free Speech in fed court: #BigTech CANNOT censor the political voices of ANY Texan! The 5th Circuit “reject[s] the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. pic.twitter.com/UijlzYcv7r
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) September 16, 2022
The law seeks 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.
HB 20 also allows for citizens to sue the social media platforms for wrongful termination and goes 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 statute.
Shortly after its passage, however, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman placed an injunction on the statute. Paxton’s appeal made its way to the 5th Circuit, which overturned the injunction.
It remains to be seen if NetChoice, LLC—who brought the suit challenging the constitutionality of the law—will attempt to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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