AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court on Friday ruled in favor of a Texas law targeting major social media companies like Facebook and Twitter in a victory for Republicans that accuse platforms of censoring conservative speech.
But the decision of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is unlikely to be the final word in the legal battle, which has stakes beyond Texas, and could affect how some of the world’s biggest tech companies share content by their users. controls.
The Texas law, signed last year by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, has been challenged by tech trade groups that warn it will prevent platforms from removing extremism and hate speech. A similar law was also passed in Florida and a separate appeals court ruled unconstitutional.
The final ruling is likely to come from the US Supreme Court, which earlier this year blocked the Texas law while the trial was underway.
“Today we reject the idea that corporations have a First Amendment right to censor what people say,” wrote US Circuit Court Judge Andrew Oldham.
NetChoice, one of the groups challenging the law, expressed dismay in a statement, explaining that the decision was contrary to what was made in the lawsuit over Florida law.
“We are confident that when the US Supreme Court hears one of our cases, it will uphold First Amendment rights to websites, platforms and apps,” said NetChoice vice president and general counsel Carl Szabo.
Republican elected officials in several states have supported laws enacted in Florida and Texas, which sought to portray social media companies as generally liberal in approach and hostile to views outside that view, particularly the political right. From.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in May that it is unclear how the High Court’s previous First Amendment cases, many of which predate the Internet age, apply to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other digital platforms.
Florida law, as enacted, would give Florida’s attorney general the authority to prosecute companies under the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. This would allow individual residents to sue social media companies for up to $100,000 if they believe they have been treated unfairly.
Texas law only applies to the largest social media platforms that have more than 50,000 active users.