A ‘radical’ ruling lets Texas ban social media moderation

federal appeal A court has reinstated a Texas law that prohibits “censorship” of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing the state to enforce the law while litigation continues.

U.S. District Court Judge Has Granted Preliminary Injunction block the law In December, it was ruled that it violated the social network’s First Amendment right to moderate user submissions.Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, a three-judge panel issued ruling The preliminary injunction was retained on Wednesday.

The ruling did not explain the judge’s reasoning. “The decision grants appellant’s motion to suspend preliminary injunction pending appeal,” the ruling said. The panel ruled unanimously, but did not say how each judge voted.

The ruling was “very radical”, said Corbin Barthold, internet policy adviser at libertarian think tank TechFreedom, filed a brief in the court case. “Social media companies now face the prospect of liability for making distinctions based on ‘views.’ (For example, treating pro-ISIS content differently than anti-ISIS content.) But there are many other difficulties in applying this law. No one– Neither lawyers, judges, experts in the field, or even sponsors of the law itself — have any idea what compliance with this law is like,” Barthold said.

in a tweetPaxton called the ruling a “major victory for BIG TECH,” adding, “I look forward to continuing to defend HB 20. State law states that “social media platforms shall not censor users based on their “views” and define “censorship” as “blocking, banning, removing, de-platforming, de-monetizing, de-promoting, restricting, denying equal access” or visibility, or otherwise discriminatory expression.” Under the law, the Texas attorney general or users can sue social media platforms that violate the ban and receive injunctive relief and reimbursement of court costs.

Judges ‘Fighting with Fundamental Technological Concepts’

There was an oral debate on Monday this week, and the judges “appeared to be struggling with basic technical concepts”, Protocol reportThe judges were skeptical of arguments put forward by tech industry group NetChoice and the Computer and Communications and Industries Association (CCIA), which sued the state of Texas to block the law. One “judge thinks Twitter isn’t even a website, and another wonders whether phone companies have a First Amendment right to get people to give up their service,” Protocol wrote.

“Your client is an internet provider,” Judge Edith Jones reportedly told NetChoice and CCIA attorneys. “They’re not websites.” The members of both groups are actually almost exclusively websites and online services, not internet service providers – see members of NetChoice here and CCIA’s here. Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo are members of both groups.

At another point in the hearing, “Judge Andrew Oldham suggested that, if the technology platform succeeds, it would allow the phone company to activate subscribers,” Protocol reported. “In your theory, can Verizon decide that they’ll eavesdrop on every call … and when they hear speech they don’t like, they’ll terminate the call?” Oldham asked.

Phone companies are classified as public carriers and regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.Although Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has applied such names to websites debate Digital platforms can be regulated as public vehicles.

CNN technology reporter Brian Fung also detailed the confusion of the 5th Circuit judge. twitter thread. Oldham called Twitter’s First Amendment right to ban certain types of speech “extraordinary,” even though First Amendment free speech guarantees are for Congress, not private companies. According to Fung, the tech group’s attorney, Scott Keller, noted that “when it comes to private entities, the government cannot dictate what they must and cannot broadcast”.

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