Federal court blocks Texas law banning ‘viewpoint discrimination’ on social media

Drew Angerer is the photographer for the photo.

A federal judge blocked the Texas law because it was likely to violate the First Amendment. NetChoice and the CCIA were granted an injunction by a federal district court in Austin that puts the law on hold until the conclusion of the case.

Judge Robert Pitman found that the prohibitions oncensorship and constraints on how social media platforms distribute content violate the First Amendment. Pitman said that moderation and curation will benefit users and the public by reducing harmful content and providing a safe, useful service.

Private companies that use editorial judgement to decide whether to publish content cannot be compelled by the government to publish other content.

Three separate Supreme Court decisions affirming the principle of the First Amendment have been cited in the order. Private companies that use editorial judgment to choose whether to publish or not can't be forced by the government to publish other content.

The Texas social media law prohibits web services with more than 50 million monthly active users from removing or limiting content based on the user's "viewpoint", among other regulations that are aimed at discouraging moderation of controversial posts and requiring faster takedowns of illegal content. It is intended to fight what Texas politicians have described as unfairly liberal-leaning moderation on sites like Facebook.

Content and moderation will benefit users.

The court found that the alleged viewpoint discrimination can be cast as editorial discretion, which is protected by the First Amendment. Without editorial discretion, social media platforms could not skew their platforms in a way that the state accuses them of doing.

Judge Pitman objected to the rules that required publishing moderation reports. The law's disclosure rules are inordinately burdensome because of the large number of posts on these sites and apps. It suggests that the law was intended to target sites that politicians saw as anti-conservative, and that a failed amendment could have lowered the user threshold to cover conservative-friendly sites. The record shows that the legislature intended to target large social media platforms that were perceived to be biased against conservative views.

NetChoice and the CCIA sued over a Florida social media law. The judge who blocked the rule's implementation was not a fan of it.