May 31 (UPI) — The Supreme Court issued a big win for tech companies Tuesday, blocking a new Texas law that bans large social media platforms from censoring user posts for their political views.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law, known as HB 20, in September to keep companies with more than 50 million active users, such as Twitter and Facebook, from restricting conservative viewpoints and giving blocked users the right to sue.
The court granted Tuesday’s emergency stay in a 5-4 ruling after tech industry groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association filed a petition. They argued the Texas law would violate tech companies’ First Amendment rights to control content on their platforms.
“This ruling means that private American companies will have an opportunity to be heard in court before they are forced to disseminate vile, abusive or extremist content under this Texas law,” said Matthew Schruers, president of the CCIA. “We are encouraged that this attack on First Amendment rights has been halted until a court can fully evaluate the repercussions of Texas’s ill-conceived statute.”
While the ruling was a victory for tech, Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent argued free speech belongs to the people.
“Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and obtain news,” Alito said. “At issue is a ground-breaking Texas law that addresses the power of dominant social media corporations to shape public discussion of the important issues of the day.”
Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Elena Kagan also dissented, while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayer, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett granted the stay.
The Texas law, which was blocked by a federal judge last December and then reversed, will remain blocked as the case moves through the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Republican-controlled legislatures of Michigan and Georgia have advanced similar bills, while Florida’s social media law was recently blocked and is currently under review by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Although the court granted the stay, its decision is not a ruling on the legality of HB 20. Alito argued it was too soon to form any judgments.
“It is not at all obvious how our existing precedents, which predate the age of the internet, should apply to large social media companies.”