What is happening
The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked the entry into force of the Texas law, which prohibits major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter from “censoring” their views on their platforms.
Why it is important
If the law finally comes into force, it will force social media companies to change the way they manage their posts, which will exacerbate the problems of misinformation, hate speech and other offensive content on these platforms.
The Federal Court of Appeals will hear a full appeal against Texas law. However, the case is likely to end in the Supreme Court, where judges will be asked to balance the rights of individuals and large social media companies with the First Amendment.
Social media giants may have won an important victory earlier this week to stop the entry into force of the Texas law, which restricts the ability to manage content on their platforms. However, the battle is not over and could pose a problem for companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.
Tuesday Supreme Courtthis would have banned major social media companies from banning users or blocking posts based on political views. The court’s decision suspends the law while the constitutional appeal continues in the lower court.
While the court’s decision was a major victory for Internet companies, the narrow decision of 5-4 and the written opposition of three conservative judges show that the decision on the merits of the case could be in favor of Texas law.
The court’s decision to temporarily block Texas law comes at a time when Congressional politicians and the nation’s public administration are trying to regulate social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter. In recent years, social media sites have struggled with disturbing content, including misinformation, The results of the US presidential election and the deadly attack on the US Capitol. They have also been accused of platforms such as Facebook that deliberately provide malicious and divisive content to users in order to increase connectivity.
Republicans have called for broad reforms because they recognize that Silicon Valley power centers are biased against conservative views and work to censor conservatives like former President Donald Trump while allowing liberal politicians. Democrats agree that reform is needed, but they see the problem differently, arguing that social media companies need to do more to moderate their platforms, such as eliminating or restricting hate speech and misinformation.
Much of the discussion about how or not technology companies are responsible for the content on their platforms is based on a 25-year provision of federal law. Article 230 of the Communications Code protects social media companies from litigation over content submitted by users, as well as liability for how they manage content. Although Congress has held many hearings and submitted dozens of bills to amend Section 230, nothing has happened at the federal level.
This has led states such as Texas and Florida to pass their own laws to deal with perceived problems. With these recent events in the US Supreme Court, more states could take a similar step.
Here’s what the Supreme Court’s decision means for social media companies, their content moderation practices, and how it all affects you.
What happened in the US Supreme Court last week?
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Texas law with a 5-4 ruling to meet the urgent need of the technology industry to prevent it from coming into force. This decision overturned the 5th Circuit decision, which overturned a previous ban by the Texas District Court. The district court has not yet ruled on the merits of the case and its constitutionality.
This means that the law will not come into force when the case is in the appellate courts.
What would Texas law do?
The Texas law, known as HB 20, will allow Texas and individual Texans to sue if they “censor” companies by banning, blocking, deleting posts, prioritizing, or otherwise discriminating against them on social media. posts on social media.
The law also requires social media companies to disclose to the public how they manage content and how they use search, ranking or other algorithms.
The law only applies to social media companies with 50 million or more users, including Facebook, Twitter, Google’s YouTube, Snap and TikTok.
What is the significance of this work?
Texas law could radically change the way social media companies operate. The law will restrict how these companies manage their platforms and how they eliminate hate speech, misinformation or other content that violates the terms of service.
The technology industry and supporters, including groups representing the NAACP and LGBTQ people, have warned that the law could lead to a flood of violent and extremist rhetoric that could be seen as political “point of view” on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. .
Social media platforms claim that Texas law violates their right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment. Because they are private companies, not government agencies, they claim to have the right to control the distribution of content on their websites and platforms.
Matthew Schruers, president of the Association of Computer and Communications Industries, who filed the appeal, said: “We encourage that this attack on the rights of the First Amendment has been suspended until the court has fully assessed the consequences of the ill-conceived Texas charter.” statement. CCIA members include Facebook, Twitter and Google.
However, Texas AG claims that social media giants are quasi-government entities that manage common space, such as “common operator” telephone networks, due to their wide coverage. Therefore, they should be required to allow all views on their platforms without censorship.
Do companies really have First Amendment rights?
The short answer is yes. What is speech? To what extent are these protections provided while balancing the rights of individual citizens? These are some of the questions that the courts are currently struggling with.
Social media companies claim that their content moderation and algorithms used to rank posts are a form of expression protected by government intervention under the US Constitution. States claim that the platforms themselves are so large and powerful that they interfere with individuals’ right to free speech. The courts will have to decide which line to take in balancing these rights.
Which Supreme Court judges voted in favor or against?
Chief Justice John Roberts allowed judges to stay with Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. However, as most of them did not give a written opinion on the issue, it is not clear on what basis they made this decision.
Justice Samuel Alito, judges Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch also wrote a different opinion. Justice Yelena Kagan also protested, but she did not join Alito’s opposition and did not explain her reasons.
It seems that this was a clear victory for technology companies. Why should these companies worry about progress?
There are several reasons for social media companies to be concerned. First, the three conservatives in the majority – Roberts, Kavanagh and Coney-Barrett – gave no reason behind their decision to support the stay. Experts may say that if the case continues to go through the federal appellate process, the courts may prefer to hear the substance of the constitutional appeal.
The second reason for concern is that the three conservative justice courts presented their arguments and seemed to agree with the Texas Attorney General’s argument that the law was limited to companies with “50 million active users in the United States.” applies only to entities that have a market power similar to that of a common carrier and that power allows them to “shut down”. [disfavored] speakers. ‘”
A third reason for concern is that the Court did not send a clear signal to the states to stop attempts to regulate speech on private platforms, as the majority did not have a written opinion. This could encourage more states to move forward with legislation to regulate speech on social media.
Blair Levine, an analyst at New Street Research, told investors, “We are not surprised that other countries are doing this, because the sentiments behind technology are driving political action.”
Is there a similar law in other states?
Florida has a similar social media law (SB 7072). This law is also unconstitutional in the federal court. Last week, the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals upheld the arrest warrant, which prevented the law from coming into force while the merits of the case were being discussed and decided. Similar bills have been introduced in the GOP-led legislatures of Michigan and Georgia.
Experts say other states are likely to consider similar laws.
“Given this signal, we doubt that other states will pass laws similar to Texas, which will keep it in the headlines,” Paul Gallant, an analyst at the Cowen Washington Research Group, told investors. “And given the Conservatives’ unhappiness over the deformation of Apple / GoogleWe should not be surprised to see that app stores are included in some state laws in early 2021. “
Apple and Google have removed the conservative social media service from its app stores for allowing provocative posts about the Capitol Hill uprising in January 2021. Eventually, the service was allowed to be returned to both app stores, but conservative lawmakers cited the deletions as proof that Big Tech companies were anti-conservative, even though there was no evidence behind the allegations.
What is the next step for this business?
The Fifth Circuit will now hear Internet companies’ full objections to Texas law. His decision could be made in the fourth quarter, Gallant said. The court said it was already inclined to approve Texas law.
However, many experts say that while the Florida case is in the 11th round and the Texas law is in the fifth round, there is a good chance that these laws will violate the rights of social media companies in the First Amendment. US Supreme Court.