A US court declared social media moderation illegal in Texas. For now, the ruling doesn't change anything. The Supreme Court could change the internet. It is incredibly bad with that context.

NetChoice is a fight over a law called House Bill 20. Large social networks can't demonetize or hide content based on viewpoint. It is positioned as an anti-Big Tech bill, but it is poised to cover many other sites. It would require a radical reworking of many major services, plausibly including an end to bans on things like hate speech and extremists.

The district court blocked the bill because it was unconstitutional. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in the spring. Judges implied that social networks should be treated the same as phone companies, but without an official explanation. The Supreme Court can use it to set a national precedent.

It's a ruling from a person who doesn't seem interested in how social networks work.

The ruling is against internet moderation in general. Techdirt's Mike Masnick has broken down the specifics, but he also found that large private websites don't have a First Amendment right to control what appears on their sites. House Bill 20 doesn't chill speech, but it does chill censorship. The ruling attempts to connect that claim with how social networks work. It ignores the real questions that are posed by HB 20 for anyone on these platforms.

In one of the strangest parts of the complaint, Oldham mocks the idea that violent extremists might use the law as cover, derides platforms'obsession with terrorists and Nazis, and complains that they're bringing up "the most extreme hypothetical applications" of the law. It makes no sense that sites use algorithms to screen out certain obscenities but then post everything else to the platform with no editorial control or judgement.

NetChoice was successful in getting the Supreme Court to block the law, so we are not feeling the effects of this decision.

The biggest fear for tech companies is that the arguments of the Supreme Court will lay the groundwork for a similar ruling. The Friday ruling sets up a split between two of the nation's highest courts. A very similar Florida law was overruled by the Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court. At this point it seems like the Supreme Court will take up the question.

The results are more open than many legal experts expected. Four justices, including Clarence Thomas, voted to allow the law to go into effect, but that doesn't mean they upheld it.

This doesn't touch the questions about tech companies and the First Amendment.

There are a lot of questions about how social media moderation works. There is a chance that conservatives on the Supreme Court won't be interested in this ruling because it seems totally disinterested in grappling with their complex issues.

There is a question of how the First Amendment should be applied to social media companies. The fact that almost everything social networks do is related to speech shouldn't mean the First Amendment doesn't allow for regulation. The Eleventh Circuit looked at the question and found potential limits that would raise their own problems.

Other states are passing their own laws, which will likely cause legal challenges. The First Amendment protections for social media will be tested in California, but they are motivated by vastly different concerns than those in Texas and Florida. The court in Ohio wants to weigh in on whether or not to treat the company as a carrier. These problems won't go away.

The reality of US politics means we mostly get rants against the stock villain of Big Tech, suggesting US courts are interested in punishing companies they don't like.

The current wave of tech companies won't last forever, and the Supreme Court's decision will shape whatever comes next. The Fifth Circuit is more serious than they are.