Texas law banning social media ‘viewpoint discrimination’ reinstated for now

House Bill 20 was passed after several conservatives — most notably, former President Donald Trump — were banned on social media platforms.

A federal appeals court lifted an injunction against Texas’ social media law banning “viewpoint discrimination.” The appellate judges will now consider the merits of Texas’ appeal.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Texas' controversial social media censorship law Wednesday afternoon after a lower court blocked its implementation in May.

House Bill 20 bans large social media companies like Twitter and Facebook from removing users from their platforms over political views. GOP lawmakers have accused the platforms of “viewpoint discrimination.”

The law was passed after several conservatives — most notably, former President Donald Trump — were banned on social media for what the companies say was a violation of their terms of service.

The Knight First Amendment Institute submitted a brief last month in support of the social media companies, arguing the law violates the companies’ right to free speech.

"As we said in a brief filed with the Fifth Circuit a few weeks ago, Texas's law violates the First Amendment because it compels social media companies to publish speech they don't want to publish,” Scott Wilkens, senior staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute, wrote in a statement. “Worse, the theory of the First Amendment that Texas is advancing in this case would give government broad power to censor and distort public discourse.”

Lawyers for the state argued Monday that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms act as a "modern-day public square," meaning they can be forced to host objectionable speech. The platforms have become akin to common carriers like the telephone and telegraph, lawyers argued, and can be regulated in the same way.

The law was passed last year but social media trade groups successfully blocked its enforcement after arguing it violates the First Amendment.

The Fifth Circuit will now consider the merits of Texas’ appeal while the law remains in effect.

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Paul DeBenedetto

Paul DeBenedetto

Senior Producer

Paul DeBenedetto is Houston Public Media's senior digital producer, writing and editing stories for HoustonPublicMedia.org. Before joining the station, Paul worked as a web producer for the Houston Chronicle, and his work has appeared online and in print for the Chronicle, the New York Times, DNAinfo New York, and other...

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