Two leading tech advocacy trade associations remained at the forefront of efforts to overturn a Texas social media law by filing a brief before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The law, known as HB 20, has been on hold since last October when the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetChoice helped secure a court injunction blocking the law from going into effect.
The State of Texas appealed that preliminary injunction and the appeals court will hear arguments in the case next month. CCIA and NetChoice’s brief, filed April 1, argues that the injunction should remain in place while the law can be fully challenged in court. The organizations, and many others, contend that the law clearly violates the First Amendment and puts internet users at risk by preventing social medial companies from protecting them.
The law would allow bad actors to sue social media companies that block them from posting certain material on their platforms. This would prevent social media companies from restricting dangerous content on their platforms, leaving Texan internet users susceptible to a wave of harmful content. The court brief argues that the legislation also infringes on tech companies’ rights to free speech, equal protection, and due process by allowing the government to have control over what is posted online.
“Governments have no business dictating what speech must appear online,” said CCIA president Matt Schruers. “Digital services are constantly combating foreign disinformation, propaganda, and anti-American extremism. Turning Texas into an online safe space for these adversaries puts Americans at risk from these evolving online threats.”
Supporters of the law say it will protect internet users from the control of tech companies, but opponents say HB 20 would protect dangerous speech and attack constitutional rights while pushing Texas and the United States toward a state-run internet.
CCIA has advocated for free speech online for more than 25 years, including the First Amendment right for private companies to determine what material is appropriate for their communities. The association has joined with others to fight unlawful content moderation in other states, including Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Alaska, and Minnesota.
In their brief, CCIA and NetChoice argue that HB 20 “is an extraordinary assertion of government power to substitute the government’s editorial preferences for those of private publishers. … (It) would eviscerate editorial discretion, impermissibly compel and chill speech, and impose onerous disclosures on select disfavored ‘social media platforms.’”
The brief adds: “Trying to defend this unprecedented attack on private editorial freedom, (Texas) advances a view of the First Amendment that is inimical to American law.”