Federal court upholds Texas law allowing users to sue social media platforms

by WorldTribune Staff, September 19, 2022

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a Texas law which allows users to sue social media platforms in the event of wrongful account suspension.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit notes that social media platforms asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional, with the court stating: “In urging such sweeping relief, the platforms offer a rather odd inversion of the First Amendment. That Amendment, of course, protects every person’s right to ‘the freedom of speech.’ But the platforms argue that buried somewhere in the person’s enumerated right to free speech lies a corporation’s unenumerated right to muzzle speech.”

The ruling adds: “The implications of the platforms’ argument are staggering. On the platforms’ view, email providers, mobile phone companies, and banks could cancel the accounts of anyone who sends an email, makes a phone call, or spends money in support of a disfavored political party, candidate, or business.”

The Texas bill, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last year, is likely to end up before the Supreme Court.

If the Texas law is upheld by the Supreme Court, it will give citizens of that state — and others, which are likely to follow suit — the right to sue social media companies for the restoration of their accounts. The Texas attorney general will also be empowered to sue social media companies on users’ behalf.

“Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say,” wrote U.S. Circuit Court Judge Andrew Oldham in Friday’s decision.

Breitbart News senior technology correspondent Allum Bokhari noted: “Representatives of the tech giants argue that forcing them to carry certain types of speech is itself a First Amendment violation. If this argument is valid, it means the First Amendment, oddly enough, provides corporations an unlimited right to censor. This in turn makes it possible for the government to have the ability to censor citizens by proxy, demanding platforms suppress certain viewpoints, as the Biden Administration did at height of the coronavirus pandemic.”

In rejecting the platforms’ argument that they have a First Amendment right to censor, Judge Oldham wrote: “The platforms are not newspapers. Their censorship is not speech.”

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