U.S. Supreme Court will review Texas social media censorship law late this month

House Bill 20 lets social media users allegedly banned for their political views to sue for reinstatement. Tech trade groups say the law violates their First Amendment rights.

By Andrew Schneider, Houston Public MediaFebruary 2, 2024 10:00 am, , ,

From Houston Public Media:

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on February 26 in a legal challenge to Texas’s social media censorship law, House Bill 20, as well as Florida’s Senate Bill 7072, which covers similar ground.

Texas’ HB 20 bars social media platforms with more than 50 million users from removing an account holder for alleged “viewpoint discrimination.” Banned users can sue for reinstatement or have the Texas attorney general sue on their behalf.

The Texas Legislature passed HB 20 in three years ago, in the wake of several high-profile conservatives – notably former President Donald Trump – being kicked off major social media platforms.

“These laws are unlawful because it constitutes a form of compelled speech,” said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, one of two technology trade groups suing Texas and Florida. The other group is NetChoice.

“There is robust First Amendment jurisprudence going back decades that substantiate the proposition that the government cannot compel private actors to publish particular content, to disseminate particular speech,” Schruers said. “Viewpoint neutrality laws such as these violate the First Amendment by compelling companies to leave content up that violates their terms of service, that they have said is not appropriate for our community.”

Houston Public Media reached out to the Texas Attorney General’s Office for comment, but the office did not respond.

Schruers expressed confidence that the high court would ultimately strike down both the Texas and Florida laws.

“Thus far, as you look across this case, the states have a record of losing, and that’s largely because the precedent aligns with the position that NetChoice and CCIA are taking here,” Schruers said. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court upheld a district court ruling against the Florida law, while the U.S. 5th Circuit issued a split decision over HB 20.

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