Court Sides Against Social Media Companies In Win For Free Speech

( A federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld a Texas bill that tries to limit the ability of social media corporations like Facebook and Twitter to prohibit free expression.

A Texas law that Governor Greg Abbott signed last year has been upheld as constitutional by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, giving Republicans a victory in their battle against big tech’s censorship of conservative viewpoints.

Judge Andrew Oldham of the U.S. Circuit Court stated in the judgment that “today we reject the notion that companies have an unconstrained First Amendment right to restrict what people say.”

Oldham said, “We overturn its injunction and remand for additional proceedings because the district court held otherwise, setting the stage for a clash before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Immediately following the passage of House Bill 20 last year, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) filed a lawsuit.
In their complaint, the groups claimed that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter had a First Amendment right to control what kinds of speech are permitted and prohibited on their sites.

In permitting the government to compel private companies to host speech they don’t want to, the Act violates the First Amendment, according to a statement from NetChoice. Additionally, the groups claimed that Texas’ statute not only does not forbid censorship but also permits Texas to “monitor and restrict speech online, undermining the First Amendment rights of internet enterprises.”
A lower court’s decision to block the statute and side with the case was overturned by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Friday.
Oldham said in the ruling that the platforms argue that a corporation’s unenumerated power to suppress speech is buried somewhere in the person’s enumerated right to free speech.

The implications of the big tech platforms’ argument, he claimed, are “staggering,” as they would permit organizations like social media companies, banks, and mobile phone companies to cancel the accounts of people who express opinions or make financial contributions to causes that these businesses find objectionable.

Oldham said that the protections sought by platforms in their legal challenge of the Texas law would enable them to gain market dominance by luring people in with false claims that they are defenders of free speech before ultimately suppressing it.

Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton, a fervent supporter of the bill, applauded the court’s ruling in a statement on social media.

He declared on Twitter that “Big Tech CANNOT suppress the political opinions of ANY Texan!” after securing a “MASSIVE victory for the constitution & free expression” in federal court.

In a statement, Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice, expressed unhappiness with the appeals court’s decision.

We are still confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will protect the First Amendment rights of websites, platforms, and apps when it hears one of our cases, Szabo added.

In a statement, CCIA claimed that the 5th Court of Appeals’ decision violated the First Amendment rights of private companies.

“God Bless America” and “Death to America” are both perspectives, and forcing a private company to treat both equally by the State of Texas is both foolish and unlawful, according to CCIA president Matt Schruers.

A challenge to Friday’s ruling could bring the matter before the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court.