Attorney General Paxton has secured a major victory in the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Texans and free speech advocates across the country. The Fifth Circuit reversed a federal district court’s ruling that blocked implementation of HB 20, a Texas law that prevents social media networks from censoring users based upon the viewpoint of their online postings. The law also creates multiple requirements for the platforms to disclose to the public how they operate and requires that users be provided with an internal process to complain about censorship decisions.
After the district court struck down HB 20, a Fifth Circuit panel removed the injunction in early May. The U.S. Supreme Court restored the injunction following an emergency motion and sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit.
“Big Tech’s reign of endless censorship and their suppression of conservative viewpoints is coming to an end,” said Attorney General Paxton. “These massive corporate entities cannot continue to go unchecked as they silence the voices of millions of Americans. HB 20 was designed to protect every Texan wanting to fully express his or her First Amendment rights, and the court made the right decision in upholding the law.”
In addressing some of the district court’s concerns, the Fifth Circuit defended the Texas law on constitutional grounds, noting that the First Amendment doesn’t allow platforms the “editorial discretion” to arbitrarily censor different viewpoints. The Court upheld the state’s authority to prevent discrimination on social platforms and further ruled that anti-censorship laws like HB 20 are consistent with the First Amendment because they regulate the company’s conduct, not their speech.
As the Court stated in its opinion: “The implications of the [Big Tech] platforms’ argument are staggering. On the platforms’ view, email providers, mobile phone companies, and banks could cancel the accounts of anyone who sends an email, makes a phone call, or spends money in support of a disfavored political party, candidate, or business. . . . Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”
To read the full opinion, click here.