Court Rules Against Social Media Companies in Free Speech Censorship Fight
Court Rules Against Social Media Companies in Free Speech Censorship Fight

By Tom Ozimek

A federal appeals court in New Orleans has ruled in favor of a Texas law that seeks to rein in the power of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to censor free speech.

The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans (pdf), handed down on Sept. 16, upholds the constitutionality of a Texas law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last year and delivers a victory to Republicans in their fight against big tech censorship of conservative viewpoints.

“Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say,” U.S. Circuit Court Judge Andrew Oldham wrote in the opinion.

“Because the district court held otherwise, we reverse its injunction and remand for further proceedings,” Oldham added, setting the stage for a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Groups Sue

After the law, known as House Bill 20, was passed last year, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) sued.

The groups argued in their lawsuit that private companies like Facebook and Twitter have a First Amendment right to moderate content that’s posted on their platforms and decide on what forms of speech to allow or ban.

“The Act tramples the First Amendment by allowing the government to force private businesses to host speech they don’t want to,” NetChoice said in a statement. The groups also argued that the Texas law not only does not prevent censorship but allows Texas to “police and control speech online, overriding the First Amendment rights of online businesses.”

A lower court sided with the lawsuit and decided to block the law, with Friday’s ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturning that decision.

“The platforms argue that buried somewhere in the person’s enumerated right to free speech lies a corporation’s unenumerated right to muzzle speech,” Oldham wrote in the opinion.

He said the implications of the big tech platforms’ argument are “staggering” as they would allow entities like social media companies, banks, and mobile phone companies to cancel the accounts of people who express views or spend money in support of political parties or views such corporations oppose.

Oldham also said that the protections sought by platforms in challenging the Texas law would allow them to win a dominant market position by attracting users with misleadings claim of being champions of free speech but later cracking down on expression.

‘Massive Victory’ for Free Speech

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been a staunch backer of the law, hailed the court’s decision in a statement on social media.

“I just secured a MASSIVE victory for the constitution & Free speech in fed court #BigTech CANNOT censor the political voices of ANY texan!” he wrote on Twitter.

Carl Szabo, NetChoice vice president and general counsel, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the appeals court’s ruling.

“We remain convinced that when the U.S. Supreme Court hears one of our cases, it will uphold the First Amendment rights of websites, platforms, and apps,” Szabo said.

CCIA issued a statement saying that the 5th Court of Appeals’ ruling infringes on private companies’ First Amendment rights.

“‘God Bless America’ and ‘Death to America’ are both viewpoints, and it is unwise and unconstitutional for the State of Texas to compel a private business to treat those the same,” Matt Schruers, CCIA president, said in a statement.

An appeal of Friday’s decision could put the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, where conservatives have a majority.

Affiliate News Feeds

  • Washington Examiner
  • The Federalist
  • The Epoch Times
  • The Guardian
  • The Gateway Pundit

In the anti-gun political climate of California, residents are stepping up their quest to own weapons and learn how to use them. [...]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) teamed up with former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines in a new campaign ad taking aim at transgender athletes competing in women’s sports. [...]

For the left, labeling Republicans as 'extremists' is a long-term goal configured to chase serious conservatives out of government. [...]

In classic Big Tech information suppression form, Google-owned YouTube punished a journalist on Thursday for highlighting just how many Democrats, corporate media outlets, and celebrities denied that former President Donald… [...]

Since being named special counsel in October 2020, John Durham has investigated or indicted several unscrupulous anti-Trump informants. But he has spared the FBI agents who handled them, raising suspicions… [...]

Hurricane Ian could turn out to be the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida, according to President Joe Biden. “This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history. The numbers …… [...]

Exclusive: in unusual move, PM and Kwasi Kwarteng will meet fiscal watchdog after mini-budget sparked investor panicKwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget: key points at a glanceAll UK political developments liveLiz Truss will… [...]

Bank of England stepped in on Thursday to stabilise price of UK governments bonds and avert a deeper crisisPension fund managers breathed a cautious sigh of relief on Thursday morning.… [...]

A shocking video shows a mother in Quincy, Massachusetts, holding down a 12-year-old girl so that her daughter could attack her. The mother, who is black, can be heard in… [...]

A country cannot survive this insanity. A Planned Parenthood doctor and Democrat witness on Thursday told Congress that men can get pregnant. How did this so-called doctor graduate from high… [...]

NH Politician

NH POLITICIAN is owned and operated by USNN World News Corporation, a New Hampshire based media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information, local,...