Content Moderation

09/22/2021

NetChoice and CCIA Sue State of Texas for Legislation HB 20 That Flagrantly Violates Texan Free Speech

Steve DelBianco
Steve DelBianco President and CEO

NetChoice and CCIA sue a second state in the wake of Florida’s enjoined Law, SB 7072

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 22, 2021): Today, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) sued the State of Texas to enjoin and invalidate HB 20, citing the First Amendment and other constitutional violations. This lawsuit follows the signing of HB 20 by Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday, September 9, 2021.

In May, NetChoice and CCIA sued the state of Florida to challenge similar legislation, SB 7072, on multiple constitutional grounds in order to protect American internet users, consumers, small businesses, and free speech. NetChoice and CCIA were granted an injunction against state enforcement of the law.

Today, NetChoice and CCIA took action to defend the First Amendment and protect the freedoms and safety of those online by filing suit in Texas against HB 20.

The lawsuit explains that:

  • Internet platforms have a First Amendment right to curate content and decide whether to host specific kinds of speech. 
  • The Act empowers the State of Texas to police and control speech online, violating the First Amendment rights of online businesses.
  • The Act tramples the First Amendment by allowing the government to force private businesses to host speech they’d otherwise remove or restrict. 
  • The Act targets and punishes specific politically disfavored speakers for exercising their First Amendment rights. 
  • The Act will fail under any level of First Amendment analysis. 

“Allowing HB 20 to take effect will inflict significant harm on Texans by threatening the safety of users, creators, and businesses that use these websites to reach audiences in a family-friendly way,” said Steve DelBianco, President and CEO of NetChoice. “No American should ever be forced to navigate through harmful and offensive images, videos and posts.”

“Given that Florida’s similar law has been enjoined because of constitutional violations, Texas should repeal this flawed attempt to force private businesses to host political speech against their will,” continued DelBianco.

The NetChoice/CCIA lawsuit describes how HB 20 blatantly defies the First Amendment. Not only does it compel private online businesses to host content they would otherwise remove or restrict, it applies “viewpoint-based restrictions” to all users and specifically prevents websites from deciding based on the “viewpoint” expressed in the post. In fact, it is for this reason HB 20 is even more unconstitutional than Florida’s law and cannot withstand First Amendment scrutiny.

The Constitution prohibits federal and state governments, not private actors, from restricting Americans’ right to free expression. Because America’s technology companies are not government actors, Texas cannot justify HB 20’s restrictions by stating the law protects Texans’ First Amendment rights. HB 20 intrudes on technology companies’ editorial decisions and will not survive under either strict or intermediate scrutiny. 

“This unconstitutional Texas law threatens all our First Amendment freedoms and will be struck down by the courts the same way the Florida version was. Americans should oppose lawmakers stampeding over the First Amendment rights of private individuals and private online businesses, especially when the aftershocks will ripple beyond just Texas alone,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel of NetChoice. 

“Texas HB 20 is an example of lawmakers saying this law protects free expression and free enterprise when it actually moves us closer to  state-run media and state-run internet,” continued Szabo. “This is exactly why our Founders created the First Amendment—to protect us from the government telling us what we can and cannot say.”

# # #NetChoice is a trade association of leading e-commerce and online companies promoting the value, convenience, and choice of internet business models. NetChoice’s mission is to make the internet safe for free enterprise and for free expression.

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