back to article US Supreme Court puts Texas social media law on hold

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated the suspension of Texas' social-media law HB 20 while litigation to have the legislation declared unconstitutional continues. The law, signed in September by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), and promptly opposed, forbids large social media companies from moderating lawful content based …

  1. HildyJ Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Thanks

    As much as I would like to see Google broken up and Facebook destroyed utterly, the last thing we need is for what little content moderation that there is to be removed.

    I thank the Court for ruling that the law should be halted until the lawsuit(s) against it are resolved.

    I hope the Court rules (when the actual appeal works its way up to them) that companies have the right to publish what they want and not publish what they don't want which is what the 1st Amendment is all about. I can't imagine Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac being forced to publish articles in support of England.

    1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      I can’t imagine …

      … Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack being forced to publish articles in support of England.

      Franklin stopped publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1758, several years before his opposition to UK policies began (with the 1765 Stamp Act). Note that he lived in London for most of the period between 1757 and 1774.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thanks

      They didn't want to remove content moderation, ONLY a little slice of it, so that it doesn't apply to themselves. Everyone else, fine, "moderation for thee but not for me!"

      How hard is it to *not* call for the violent overthrow of democracy on Twitter? But they didn't even limit themselves to political subjects.

      Why stop there, "Money is speech" according to Citizens United.

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/17/fec-vs-ted-cruz-supreme-court-campaign-contribution-limit

      ["Particularly at issue is Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission, a 2010 ruling which said private entities have the same free speech rights as individuals and therefore should not face limits on campaign donations. Roberts explicitly referred to the case in his decision."]

      Why not also force banks to transfer illegal contributions to their political accounts from Russia? It's an unnecessary limit on Republican speech, by where money equates to speech. Those NRA contributions from Russia, passed onto Trump Republicans, its green-back speech.

      But if *all* social media rules are unenforeable against Republican politicians. Why not also force, for example, Venmo, to process transactions to underage hookers for Republicans. Or Republicans calling dead children "crisis actors". Or every other rule they have and every other form of content moderation on every subject, not just politics?

      It's the "Republican as victim"... the current election strategy. Similar to the "Your GUNS are in danger, send donations now!". The NRA's constant fear mongering strategy.

      Turncoat Tucker is always whining on and on, about how Conservatives are the victims, the deep state in league with Antifa, big covid, NATO, the left wing media, radical feminists, European elites, and big tech, is taking away their voice. Everyone is conspiring against Tucker and his Republican buddies, and his only friend is Vladimir Putin.

      "Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity? Does he eat dogs? These are fair questions, and the answer to all of them is no. Vladimir Putin didn’t do any of that."

      Such victimhood, such snowflakes. Such projection. Such lies.

  2. fxkeh

    preclearance for unconstituional state laws?

    "Texas should not be required to seek preclearance from the federal courts before its laws go into effect"

    INAL (and not an American) but I find this reasoning bizarre - of course a state doesn't need to seek clearance before they write their own laws, but if you write a law that is unconstitutional then surely you should expect it to be challenged before it goes into effect. If New York state wrote a law that banned all private firearm ownership I'd expect that law would be challenged before the guns were confiscated too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: preclearance for unconstituional state laws?

      Have you seen the idiots who write laws in American state legislatures?

      Yes, ALL states absolutely should have to get preclearance before ANY law goes into effect. Unconstitutional laws cause real harm to real people. Having courts review them before they could do that would be absolutely amazing.

    2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      of course a state doesn’t need to seek clearance before they write their own laws

      The Voting Rights Act of 1965 required preclearance for certain states and counties (determined by a “coverage formula” within the Act) to change their election laws. In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), though, the Supreme Court determined the coverage formula to be unconstitutional, which made the preclearance unenforceable.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: preclearance for unconstituional state laws?

      What's the value of pi these days? Three sounds like a good number... all those decimals going on forever can't be good, surely?

      1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: preclearance for unconstituional state laws?

        We need to conserve decimal places. It's for the environment (& children).

      2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: preclearance for unconstituional state laws?

        < RepublicanSarc >

        Are you tired of big government telling Pi what to do?

        Had enough of being forced to deal with the extra complexity of infinite decimal places?

        Sick of democrats, Antifa, radical feminists and the liberal media trying to take away your bullets and guns by making it harder to calculate the circumference of a circle?

        Vote YES on prop 314! End liberal interference in Pi's rights to its own Christian, God-fearing conservative business.

        Show your patriotism!!! VOTE NOW!!11!1!!!One1!

        < /RepublicanSarc >

        1. a pressbutton

          Re: preclearance for unconstituional state laws?

          I think you might find prop 3141 is almost 10 times better

    4. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: preclearance for unconstituional state laws?

      Fully agree…. However this analysis is dydiect from the article

      “The law, signed in September by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), and promptly opposed, forbids large social media companies from moderating lawful content based on a "viewpoint," such as "smoking cures cancer" or "vaccines are poison" or hateful theories of racial superiority. Its ostensible purpose is to prevent internet giants from discriminating against conservative social media posts, something that studies indicate is not happening.”

      Discriminating against *bollocks* social media posts. The fact that Conservative posts ping the correlation does not imply causation bell is purely coincidental.

  3. ShadowSystems Silver badge

    I wonder what would happen if...

    If the Texas law is allowed to stand & Texas starts to enforce it, at which point all the various interactive sites suddenly throw up a firewall to keep all Texas-based IP's off their services entirely.

    "We're sorry but your state has decided to violate our 1st Amendment Rights. We are unable to provide you any content as long as law $X is enforce. If you wish access to be restored in your state, please contact your local representative & appeal for saner heads to prevail. Thank you."

    Yes the use of VPN's would go up, but that would only prove the site's point that Texas is no longer welcome to play in the same sandbox as everyone else. If the only way Texas residents can access $Site is to arrive via VPN to disguise the fact that they are Texans, there *will* be backlash against the political dipshits that caused the situation in the first place. Yes there will be backlash against the sites as well, but that can be deflected simply by pointing out that it's a Texas law that prevents them from allowing such interactions.

    "Hey, we'd love to invite you in, but Texas says we're not allowed to do anything about that "I love Hitler" t-shirt you're wearing. We don't approve & Texas won't let us excersize our rights not to do business with you. Please have a nice day somewhere else. Thanks."

    If a state wants to pass such a law, what would happen if all the sites affected by such a law just blocked all the IP's from inside that state from accessing their resources?

    1. BobTheIntern

      Re: I wonder what would happen if...

      > If a state wants to pass such a law, what would happen if all the sites affected by such a law just blocked all the IP's from inside that state from accessing their resources?

      The Texas state law also attempts to prohibit social media companies from not allowing Texas-based users to access their sites.

      Good luck with that one!

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: I wonder what would happen if...

        The Texas state law also attempts to prohibit social media companies from not allowing Texas-based users to access their sites

        Exactly what reasoning could they possibly use for that? You can't pass laws that change how a business operates, and also force the business to operate in your state to force them to be subject to that law! It doesn't take much imagination to see how that could be badly abused to attack favored right wing companies like manufacturers of assault rifles.

        1. GBE

          Re: I wonder what would happen if...

          >>The Texas state law also attempts to prohibit social media companies from not allowing Texas-based users to access their sites

          >Exactly what reasoning could they possibly use for that?

          It's Texas. What's reasoning got to do with it?

      2. localzuk Silver badge

        Re: I wonder what would happen if...

        >The Texas state law also attempts to prohibit social media companies from not allowing Texas-based users to access their sites.

        That sounds remarkably like trying to interfere in inter-state trade by forcing them to trade inter-state? Not sure that'd stand up in court either.

    2. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: I wonder what would happen if...

      I did wonder how the social media platforms would even be able to police it, if there was a facebook group on which people from all over the US were to post content, would they not be able to delete any posts that violated the T&Cs if that post was from a Texas IP address, but those from New York and California they would delete?

      What happened if a Texan left the state and posted from a California IP could they then be moderated until they returned to posting from within Texas again?

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: I wonder what would happen if...

        Away with you! You, and your rational, well thought out concers. AWAY!!

        [ Won't somebody think of the Conservative children ----> ]

    3. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: I wonder what would happen if...

      Would there be a backlash against the politicians speaking up in favour of the people being banned from social media, or would other states go "Whoa! Texas just eliminated a whole tranche of poisonous discourse from the Internet in their state. Let's join them."

      The Texas law came about because of social media companies banning people for wrongthink, not because they're promoting dangerous or controversial theories.

      For instance, take any twitter post that supports or denigrates people of a certain skin colour, and change that skin colour. Exactly the same wording will get your account banned or designated 'not in breach of policy' depending entirely and only on the skin colour mentioned.

      You can do the same with many other topics, and that's the bias that creates the echo chambers that have been damaging society so much since 2015.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Ummm... what?

        You seem to not know what you're talking about.

        Pretty sure your example would qualify as racism. Which you seem to be advocating is sometimes ok ("...a certain skin colour..."), while some is not ("...change that skin colour..."). Neither is case is ok, and both cases should be equally moderated. It's not any better to leave one up, than leave both up.

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: Ummm... what?

          We appear to be in complete agreement. Which is why I highlighted the issue - Twitter will literally look at two messages, both identical except for the skin colour referenced, and ban one but not the other. It absolutely is racism, and it absolutely is indeed wrong.

          Sadly this has been proven many times.

          Incidentally you assume that this only applies to negative messages. It doesn't. Which is why I mentioned 'in support of' as part of my description of Twitter's enacted policies.

    4. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: I wonder what would happen if...

      I'm sure it is stated somewhere (and I could go look up and read the "law" itself -- if I wanted to submit myself to the toxic combination of Tejano legalese), but I don't know how Tejanoland could possibly enforce the law against a corporation located in another state. Tejas, in spite of is overreach and hyperinflated ego, does not have control over interstate commerce (that's a federal gig, my dear Guv'ner). What are they going to do, send Texas Rangers to California to arrest Twatter?

      Seems to me that the antisocial media giants can simply raise a stiff middle finger to Herr Abbott. (And should, too...it would be well deserved.))

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder what would happen if...

      The Texan way:

      Use your Second Amendment rights to forcibly remove legislators opposed to your First Amendment rights!

  4. ecofeco Silver badge

    Bwahahahahahaaha

    I never get tired of RWNJ self pwnage.

  5. Winkypop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Now there’s ya problem

    Conservatives

    1. ITS Retired

      Re: Now there’s ya problem

      That is pretty obvious. The many unconstitutional "Huh, WHAT!!!1!?" laws they pass, or try to pass is the proof.

  6. Tom7

    I'm not really sure this is good news for the platforms

    They argue companies have a First Amendment right to exercise editorial discretion for the content distributed on their platforms.

    These platforms have spent at least the last decade arguing that they don't exercise any editorial discretion over their content, in order to benefit from the section 230 safe-harbour provisions. If they're now arguing they exercise editorial discretion and need to do so, haven't they just opened themselves up to liability for anything that's posted on their platform? In particular, they become the publisher of any libellous speach...

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: I'm not really sure this is good news for the platforms

      No, they don't.

      Section 230 explicitly allows them to exercise editorial discretion without becoming liable.

      That is why your (better informed but just as wrong) "conservative" friends don't like it!

  7. localzuk Silver badge

    Interstate commerce?

    Putting aside the 1st Amendment part of it all, would this not also violate the whole part of the constitution which gives the power over interstate trade to the federal government, not states?

    If these social media companies are based in, say, California and people access the sites in Texas, isn't that interstate trade?

    I suppose it'd be different if they had a physical presence in Texas itself but if they didn't, it doesn't seem like Texas would have jurisdiction?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Interstate commerce?

      Not being in the US and having no idea how internal trade works between States, I suppose the argument could be put forward that some States have legalised weed, but in other States, possession is a crime so no, isyou still can't export a legal item to a State where purchase or possession is illegal. In the specific case, Twitter or Facebook et al would be importing-exporting illegal content between States. I think. Maybe. Possibly :-)

      1. localzuk Silver badge

        Re: Interstate commerce?

        Problem with that is there's no product being exported. The customer is actively crossing the state boundary, rather than the company doing it. i.e. the service would have no presence in Texas if the customer didn't load up the site to bring it in. The servers and company all remain outside the state.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: Interstate commerce?

          The product being exported is 1) the platform itself, and 2) advertising (of course!)

          1. MrDamage Silver badge

            Re: Interstate commerce?

            It is being imported at the sole behest of the Texan user, not being exported blindly by the social media companies.

            Does Amazon just randomly send you things, or do they only send you things when you specifically order them?

  8. nintendoeats Silver badge

    This really highlights the incredible tensions we see in this space.

    On the one hand, most people will agree that the powers that be (including both the government and large corporations) should not be able to interfere with people's right to express ideas in the commons.

    On the other hand, most people will also agree any part of the internet which attracts large numbers of people will eventually become unusable without moderation, beyond the "common sense" removal of extreme violence and pornography.

    "The commons" has become both extremely large and extremely easy to add ideas to...when our modern conception of free speech came into being, expressing an idea to a large group of people had a high barrier to entry so there was a natural filtering process for ideas to propagate. Now that is not true, so the potential damage of saying something that is incorrect has gone up significantly. And yet, I know that I for one am still loathe to infringe on free speech rights.

    I am not convinced that there even is a way to reconcile these two problems, and I do not envy those whose job it is to do so.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I am not convinced that there even is a way to reconcile these two problems, and I do not envy those whose job it is to do so."

      Same applies to gun control. Any serious form of restriction, considering the number of illegally heald firearms almost certainly would increase crime since the criminals would be more sure of victims being unarmed. I read somewhere that Trumo referenced the high gun crime rates in Chicago, which has more restrictive gun laws than Texas (hey who hasn't?) therefore tighter gun laws causes crime. What he failed to mention was that over 60% of firearms recovered after gun crimes were "imported" from adjoining States with more lax gun laws than Chicago/Illinois. What it does show is that, as with the free speech/socail media thing, it needs Federal changes, not local State changes.

      In some ways, despite the reverence and good of the Constitution, it does seem to be a bit of a restriction at times in this modern world. As you say, I do not envy those who have to try to deal with these issues. They're tough ones!

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
        Facepalm

        So your argument against gun control is that the police is not able to rein in criminals?

  9. Unbleached White Girl

    So... it's not right to censor hate speech in TX, but it's okay to rewrite history for textbooks because students shouldn't be made to feel bad about their racist great grandparents just because they owned slaves?

    I'm referring to a textbook written for public middle schools in Texas 7 years ago, that said, "The Atlantic slave trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the Southern United States to work on agricultural plantations".

    Sounds more like a voluntary migration in the hopes of a brighter future & more opportunity.

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