The Supreme Court blocked Texas’ attempt to ban social media companies from removing content it deems abusive to its users, vacating a previous appeals court decision that allowed it to stand. It was a ruling celebrated by the law’s detractors who deemed it unconstitutional and condemned by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
According to CNET, those opposed to the law believed it would “force social media companies to leave offensive content, hate speech, and misinformation on their platforms.” Chris Marchese, counsel for NetChoice – an organization that seeks to keep the internet “safe” – celebrated the judicial victory, saying on the company’s website:
“The government cannot force American businesses to host and spread a mass murderer’s vile manifesto, Putin’s anti-West propaganda, or an antisemite’s Holocaust denial. In passing HB20, the Texas legislature ran roughshod over the First Amendment, so we’re relieved that users will remain protected from the flood of horrible content Texas would have unleashed on popular websites and serves as the case proceeds in the district court.”
In September 2021, Governor Abbott signed state House Bill 20 into law in a move to curb what the Republican overseer believes to be “censorship” of conservative voices. The bill allowed the platform to be sued for removing content it says violates its terms of service.
A similar law was implemented in Florida shortly after then-President Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter. The twice-impeached former guy was suspended for violating the app’s rules against inciting violence for tweets he made in the aftermath of the Capitol riots on January 6th that were inspired and encouraged by Trump himself.
It was a wake-up call to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter that their platforms were being used in an ongoing and concerted effort by those on the right to upend America’s democracy.
NetChoice was involved in that suit as well. After a lower court ruled against DeSantis, and the state’s GOP crafted legislation, NetChoice’s president, Steve DelBianco said in a statement:
“We’re pleased the court ensured that social media can remain family-friendly by delaying Florida’s law from taking effect. This order protects private businesses against the state’s demand that social media carry users posts that are against their community standards.”
The United States Court of Appeals agreed, upholding the ruling on May 23rd, 2022, and stating in its opinion that “the government can’t tell a private person or entity what to say or how to say it.”
Between the Supreme Court’s and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ rulings, Abbott and DeSantis, the equally awful Governors, are 0 for 2 in their rapidly paced race to the fascist bottom. And those longing for a safe internet space free of the right’s increasing hateful, vitriolic, and abusive content, can breathe a sigh of relief – for now anyway. If one thing is certain, when it comes to spreading lies, disinformation, and hate – they’re not likely to give up.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick