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Supreme Court Blocks Texas Social Media Law That Tech Companies Warned Would Allow Hateful Content to Run Rampant

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a controversial Texas social media law from taking effect, after the tech industry and other opponents warned it could allow for hateful content to run rampant online.

Two industry groups that represent tech companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter, claimed in their emergency application with the court, “HB20 would compel platforms to disseminate all sorts of objectionable viewpoints, such as Russia’s propaganda claiming that its invasion of Ukraine is justified, ISIS propaganda claiming that extremism is warranted, neo-Nazi or KKK screeds denying or supporting the Holocaust, and encouraging children to engage in risky or unhealthy behavior like eating disorders.”

The legislation was passed in September but blocked by a lower court, which granted a preliminary injunction keeping it from going into effect. That changed when a federal appeals court for the Fifth Circuit ruled in mid-May to stay the injunction pending a final decision on the case, meaning the law could be enacted while the court deliberated on the broader case.

That prompted two tech industry groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), to file an emergency petition with Alito, who is assigned to cases from that district.

NetChoice and CCIA asked the court to keep the law from going into effect, arguing social media companies make editorial decisions about what content to distribute and display, and that the appeals court’s decision would get rid of that discretion and chill speech. It said the court should vacate the stay as the appeals court reviews the important First Amendment issues central to the case.

“Texas’s HB 20 is a constitutional trainwreck — or, as the district court put it, an example of ‘burning the house to roast the pig,'” said Chris Marchese, Counsel at NetChoice, in response to Tuesday’s ruling. “We are relieved that the First Amendment, open internet, and the users who rely on it remain protected from Texas’s unconstitutional overreach.”