Tech industry groups sue Texas over anti-censorship social media law

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Ailan Evans, DCNF

Groups representing major tech companies filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state of Texas over a social media law passed earlier this month that aimed to curb online censorship.

The lawsuit, filed by technology trade associations NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) that represent tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, alleged a law signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month violated their First Amendment rights. The law, known as HB 20, prohibits social media platforms from banning or suspending users and removing or suppressing content based on a political viewpoint.

“This unconstitutional Texas law threatens all our First Amendment freedoms and will be struck down by the courts the same way the Florida version was,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, said in a statement. “Americans should oppose lawmakers stampeding over the First Amendment rights of private individuals and private online businesses, especially when the aftershocks will ripple beyond just Texas alone.”

In addition to prohibiting social media companies from removing content based on viewpoint, HB 20 allows users who can demonstrate they were censored to sue social media companies, and permits the state attorney general to sue on behalf of users. The law also sets up a complaint system for users claiming to be censored.

The trade associations’ complaint alleges the law prevents social media companies like Facebook and YouTube from exercising their First Amendment rights by preventing them from editorializing content on their platforms.

“HB 20 prohibits the platforms from engaging in their own expression to label or comment on the expression they are now compelled to disseminate,” the complaint read.

The plaintiffs also argue the law forces users of social media companies to be exposed to harmful or offensive content.

“The law aside, it’s neither good policy nor good politics for Texas to make the Internet a safe space for bad actors, whether that be Taliban sympathizers or people encouraging kids to eat detergent pods,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement.

CCIA and NetChoice compared the law to legislation signed earlier this year by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which imposed financial penalties on tech companies that deplatformed individuals. That law is currently being contested in the federal courts after being struck down for violating First Amendment rights of tech companies.

The trade associations said they expected the Texas law to meet a similar fate.

“Given that Florida’s similar law has been enjoined because of constitutional violations, Texas should repeal this flawed attempt to force private businesses to host political speech against their will,” Steve Bianco, president of NetChoice, said in the statement.

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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