Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to the media in Washington, D.C. on March 2, 2016. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 16 (UPI) — A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a Texas law that paves the way for lawsuits against social media companies for engaging in content moderation.
House Bill 20, signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last year, is an effort to target “censorship” and the removal of political posts deemed to violate the terms of service for social media platforms.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is known to be conservative, lifted an injunction levied by a lower court that had prevented the law from taking effect.
“The platforms argue that buried somewhere in the person’s enumerated right to free speech lies a corporation’s unenumerated right to muzzle speech,” Judge Andrew Oldham wrote in the ruling from the three-judge panel.
Oldham wrote that social media platforms had urged the court to hold that the law is unconstitutional, which he said had “staggering” implications.
“On the platforms’ view, email providers, mobile phone companies and banks could cancel the accounts of anyone who sends an email, makes a phone call or spends money in support of a disfavored political party, candidate, or business,” Oldham wrote.
“Today, we reject the idea that corporations have freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. Because the district court held otherwise, we reverse its injunction and remand for further proceedings.”
NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association filed a lawsuit against Texas after the law passed last year.
Ken Paxton, the controversial Texas attorney general who was indicted on felony securities fraud charges in 2015, has defended the law on behalf of the state.
“I just secured a MASSIVE VICTORY for the Constitution & Free Speech in fed court: #BigTech CANNOT censor the political voices of ANY Texan!” Paxton wrote on Twitter.
The ruling sets up a split between two circuit courts which could lead to the U.S. Supreme Court resolving the issue after the 11th Circuit Court blocked major provisions of a social media law in Florida earlier this year.
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