May 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Tech groups ask Supreme Court to block Texas' controversial social media law

Photo of the Supreme Court building from the side

The U.S. Supreme Court building on May 11. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Two tech industry groups filed an emergency application Friday night asking the Supreme Court to block a lower court ruling that allowed Texas' controversial social media law to take effect.

Why it matters: The law allows users to sue a social media company if they are blocked from posting or have their posts removed. Civil liberties experts and tech advocates have said it would force companies to let problematic speech such as hate and misinformation stay up on their platforms.

  • Republicans, including proponent Gov. Greg Abbott, say the law lets users retain freedom of speech amid social media companies' campaign to silence conservative ideas and beliefs.

What they're saying: The Texas law "is a content-, viewpoint-, and speaker-based law that would eviscerate editorial discretion and impermissibly compel and chill speech by targeted, disfavored 'social media platforms,'" NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) say in the filing.

  • "[T]he entire impetus for HB20 was that Texas did not like how platforms were exercising such editorial discretion to remove or refrain from disseminating certain speech," they write.
  • "For all platforms, the expressive act of policy enforcement is critical to the distinctive experiences that platforms provide their users — and to ensuring that the services remain hospitable and useful services."
  • "Without these policies, platforms would offer fundamentally worse (and perhaps even useless) experiences to their users, potentially overrun with spam, vitriol, and graphic content," the filing states, citing slurs, pornography and material harmful to children such as content urging eating disorders.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Ashley Gold: The groups fighting the 5th Circuit ruling wouldn't have sent it to the Supreme Court if they weren’t confident the justices would vote in their favor.

  • What will be most important to watch is what unfolds in the upcoming Texas court case over the merits of the law.
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