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Trade groups ask Supreme Court to block Texas social media ‘censorship’ ban
May 17, 2022 |
U.S. Supreme Court

Associations say state law violates the First Amendment

Two associations are seeking an emergency stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that a Texas anti-censorship law actually violates the free speech rights of private businesses.

The legislation passed by Republican lawmakers late last year allows people to sue Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms for deleting or blocking online posts. The move came amid complaints that social media companies are “censoring” conservative voices. One often-cited example is former President Donald Trump, who was banned from Twitter after his supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association both sued to overturn the law. The associations argue that social media companies are being compelled by the government to host speech they don’t want, which is prohibited by the First Amendment. A lower court sided with the trade groups but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit lifted the court’s injunction on enforcing the law in a one-sentence order May 11, according to the news site ScotusBlog.

NetChoice and CCIA are now asking the Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the law, which could result in the full court considering its constitutionally.

The Texas law “strips private online businesses of their speech rights, forbids them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions, and forces them to publish and promote objectionable content,” Chris Marchese, counsel for NetChoice, said in a statement announcing the Supreme Court appeal. “The First Amendment prohibits Texas from forcing online platforms to host and promote foreign propaganda, pornography, pro-Nazi speech, and spam.”

“It is unconstitutional for the government to dictate what speech a private company must disseminate whether it be a newspaper, TV show or online platform,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement. “The First Amendment is crucial to our democracy and the Supreme Court must now protect that principle from government actors who are too willing to sacrifice it on the altar of partisan posturing.”

Justice Samuel Alito has instructed Texas to file its response to the request by 5 p.m. May 18.