The US Supreme Court on Tuesday delayed suspending a controversial Texas law that bars social media platforms from “censoring” posts based on views.
The law essentially threatens to criminalize social media to curb hate speech or intolerant speech, or even point out that posts are clearly false.
Political conservatives have accused Facebook, Twitter and other social media giants of stifling their voices, and have not presented any evidence to support the claims.
Social media platforms have consistently defended themselves against such accusations, saying content moderation decisions are based on factors such as the risk of real-world harm.
Former US President Donald Trump was fired from Facebook and Twitter after a group of his supporters attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in an attempt to prevent his rightly elected successor Joe Biden from taking office.
People were killed during the attack, and there were concerns that Trump would use social media to incite more violence.
Texas law prohibits social media platforms with more than 50 million users from banning people based on their political views.
The NetChoice trade association, whose membership includes Amazon, Facebook and Google, has challenged the law and persuaded a Texas federal court to block its application until it is resolved whether it conflicts with the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
An appeals court later upheld the state of Texas, saying the state could move forward with the law, which led to the case being referred to the Supreme Court.
The US Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the original decision to suspend Texas law HB 20 while the question of whether it should be repealed completely is being resolved.
“HB 20 in Texas is a constitutional train wreck — or, as the district court said, an example of ‘house burning to roast a pig,'” NetChoice counsel Chris Marchisy said in a statement.
“Despite Texas’ best efforts to beat the First Amendment, it never made it to the Supreme Court.”
NetChoice welcomed the decision, which referred the case back to a Texas district court to hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the law.
In its original decision on the moratorium, the district court said that social media platforms have the right to modify content posted on their platforms, and that a provision prohibiting placing warning labels on misleading information may infringe on the free speech rights of internet companies.
“Texas law violates the First Amendment because it forces social media companies to publish speech they don’t want to publish, and because it prevents them from responding to speech they disagree with,” said attorney Scott Wilkins of Columbia University’s First Amendment Knight Institute.
“In addition, the First Amendment theory that Texas presents in this case would give the government broad power to censor and distort public discourse.”