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Supreme Court Blocks Texas Law That Would Stop Big Tech from Censoring Over Political Beliefs

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The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked a Texas law that would stop Big Tech platforms from censoring predominately conservative viewpoints. In particular, the Texas law would prevent social media companies from removing posts based on the political content of their speech.

“The vote was 5 to 4, with an unusual coalition in dissent,” the New York Times reported. “The court’s three most conservative members — Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch — filed a dissent saying they would have let stand, for now at least, an appeals court order that left the law in place while the case moved forward. Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, also said she would have let the order stand, though she did not join the dissent and gave no reasons of her own.

The case is NetChoice et al. vs Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general. The dissent was authored by Justice Alito.

“It is not at all obvious how our existing precedents, which predate the age of the internet, should apply to large social media companies, but Texas argues that its law is permissible under our case law,” Alito argued. “First, Texas contends that §7 does not require social media platforms to host any particular message but only to refrain from discrimination against a user’s speech on the basis of “viewpoint,” App. 49a, and in this respect the statute may be a permissible attempt to prevent ‘repression of [the freedom of speech] by private interests.’ Second, Texas argues that HB20 applies only to platforms that hold themselves out as ‘open to the public’.”

“These representations suggest that the covered social media platforms—like the cable operators in Turner—do not generally “’‘convey ideas or messages [that they have] endorsed’.’” Third, since HB20 is limited to companies with ’50 million active users in the United States,’ Texas argues that the law applies to only those entities that possess some measure of common carrier-like market power and that this power gives them an ‘opportunity to shut out [disfavored] speakers.’ If anything, Texas submits, its arguments regarding the constitutionality of §2’s disclosure requirements are even stronger. The State notes that we have upheld laws requiring that businesses disclose ‘purely factual and uncontroversial information about the terms under which [their] services will be available,’ so long as those requirements are not ‘unjustified or unduly burdensome’.”

Justice Alito made clear that the issues at hand are so ‘novel’ and ‘significant’ that the Supreme Court is likely to weigh in on them at some point.

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