In a filing to the Court on Wednesday, Texas argued that its law, HB 20, which prohibits large social media firms from blocking, banning or demoting posts or accounts, does not violate the First Amendment.
The case is viewed as a bellwether for social media and could determine whether tech platforms may have to scale back their content moderation and allow a broad range of material that their terms currently prohibit.
The case has already drawn “friend of the court” briefs from interested third parties including groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, who urged the court to block the law, arguing it will “transform social media platforms into online repositories of vile, graphic, harmful, hateful, and fraudulent content, of no utility to the individuals who currently engage in those communities.”
Also seeking to file a third-party brief was former Rep. Chris Cox, co-author of the tech platform liability shield known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that explicitly permits websites to moderate content and which has become a lightning rod in the wider battle over digital speech.
Social media operators have repeatedly cited Section 230 to successfully nip many suits in the bud concerning user-generated content. But HB 20 conflicts with Section 230 by saying platforms can be sued in Texas for moderating their online communities, raising questions about the future of the federal law that’s been described as “the 26 words that created the internet.”
On Saturday, Alito gave Texas a deadline of Wednesday evening to file its response to the stay request. He may either make a unilateral decision on the stay, or refer the decision to the full Court.
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