AUSTIN, TX – The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reinstated a Texas law that allows users of social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to sue these companies if said users have been banned for their political stances and beliefs.
The ruling put on hold a temporary injunction that a federal judge issued in December, and the law – known as HB 20 (relating to complaint procedures and disclosure requirements for censorship of users’ expressions by social media platforms.) – will be allowed to go back into effect while the case plays out in the lower courts.
HB 2020 adds a long list of requirements for social media companies as well as transparent disclosure procedures when any action is taken related to A) content removal; B) content demonetization; C) content deprioritization; D) a specific assessment to content; E) account suspensions; F) account removals; or G) any other action taken in accordance with a platforms acceptable use policies.
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Groups representing Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Alphabet’s Google and Twitter had previously filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas over the law, which was passed to address allegations that conservatives and right-leaning individuals were facing a disproportionate number of bans on social media platforms when compared to other political ideologies.
The law, Texas legislators said, was passed to reinforce the First Amendment and help protect conservative voices from censorship. However, the groups representing Facebook, Google and Twitter argued in their lawsuit that the First Amendment only prohibits censorship by the U.S. government, and that private companies – which are not beholden to it – have the freedom to monitor and remove content and users from their platforms as they see fit.
But regardless of that fact, the social media representatives claimed, they were not targeting conservative or right-leaning viewpoints, but merely hate speech and/or harmful content.
Initially, a judge ruled in favor of the social media representatives, blocking the HB 20; however, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the decision, with Wednesday’s ruling allowing the law to take effect once again while the court battle takes place.
AG Paxton issued a tweet at the decision, saying it was a “BIG WIN against BIG TECH.”
“My office just secured another BIG WIN against BIG TECH. #Texas’s HB20 is back in effect,” he said. “The 5th Circuit made the right call here, and I look forward to continuing to defend the constitutionality of #HB20.”
A similar bill in Florida was blocked in June by a federal judge before it could take effect.