Science & Technology

Big tech sues Texas over social media censorship law

Two trade groups representing some of the world’s largest tech companies filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas today concerning a law that would inhibit social media companies from censoring users for their political views.

NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association filed the lawsuit against HB 20, a law that would prevent social media companies from banning users or restricting the content they post based on their political views. HB 20 was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott earlier this month.

The law also asks that companies such as Google LLC, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. disclose how they moderate such content and if they don’t, they could end up facing a civil lawsuit. It will only apply to companies with more than 50 million users if their business means people “communicate with other users for the primary purpose of posting information, comments, messages, or images.”

HB 20 doesn’t stop at social media companies, either, with email also being included. Under the law, companies would not be able to “intentionally impede the transmission of another person’s electronic mail message based on the content of the message.”

Supporters of the law say it will ensure people’s First Amendment rights are protected, and if people do find they have been blocked or their views have been suppressed, they will have legal recourse. Social media companies and the trade groups behind them say they have rules for a good reason.

“They can’t be forced to carry content that violates the community standards that they use to curate a community of online content that suits their advertisers and audience,” NetChoice President and Chief Executive Steve Del Bianco told the Texas Tribune.

The complaint filed today said much the same, that you can’t force platforms to publish speech that violates their policies. “At a minimum, HB 20 would unconstitutionally require platforms like YouTube and Facebook to disseminate, for example, pro-Nazi speech, terrorist propaganda, foreign government disinformation, and medical misinformation,” said the complaint. It also states that asking companies to disclose how they moderate in “excruciating detail” billions of pieces of content would be impossible.

A similar law was recently blocked in Florida for the reason that it would ask companies to go against their own policies. “HB 20 has the same First Amendment flaws as the Florida law that a federal court blocked this summer,” DelBianco said in a statement. “The same outcome will almost certainly occur in Texas.”

Photo: dole777/UnSplash

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