Two trade associations asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to strike down a Texas social media law that prevents sites from banning users based on their “viewpoints.”
The state law, known as HB 20, would allow lawsuits against tech companies accused of suppressing users or accounts. It would make it illegal for large social media sites to “block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression.”
Two of the biggest tech trade groups—NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), both of which represent Facebook, Google and Twitter—are appealing a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from September that upheld HB 20, prohibiting the large platforms from “censoring” viewpoints. The trade groups say the First Amendment prohibits viewpoint-based laws that restrict websites’ editorial choices, according to a copy of the petition.
The 5th Circuit Court said in its ruling, “We reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”
After issuing a temporary stay of HB 20 earlier this year, petitions have brought the case back before the Supreme Court. If the Justices agree to hear the case, legal experts have said it could become a lightning rod in the wider debate over online speech, as well as the rights of tech platforms to manage their own websites.
Also in September, the state of Florida asked the Supreme Court to hear a similar case involving one of its laws. Florida law SB 7027 allows political candidates to sue social media companies if they are blocked or removed from online platforms for more than 14 days.
The same two tech trade groups challenged Florida’s law after it was signed this year. In this case, the 11th Circuit Court ruled that the Florida law did in fact violate the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court Justices would likely weigh the opposing rulings from the 5th Circuit and the 11th Circuit if they decide to take up this case.