Texas Social Media Regulation

May 12, 2022
Image of social media apps on an iPhone screen

… another BIG WIN against BIG TECH. #Texas’s HB20 is back in effect. The 5th Circuit made the right call here, and I look forward to continuing to defend the constitutionality of #HB20.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) in a tweet announcing a federal appeals court decision which allows Texas to enforce a social media law known as HB 20. The law prohibits social media platforms from suppressing users’ content based on personal opinion.
  • Why It Matters: Many states have considered legislation concerning social media platforms' regulations of public opinion, but Texas is the first state to get this far in the legislation process. “There is a dangerous movement by some social-media companies to silence conservative ideas and values,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had said last year after signing the bill. Florida proposed a similar bill that was blocked by a federal judge in June.
  • Background: Two trade groups representing tech companies such as Meta (Facebook), Twitter, and Google challenged the Texas law when it was originally established last year. A federal district judge decided that social media platforms have a First Amendment right to moderate content; this decision blocked Texas from being able to enforce its law, so the case went on to a three-judge U.S. Circuit of Appeals court. The court decided this week that Texas can enforce its law while the state's appeal continues.
  • What it means for the Texas law to be enforced: Texas residents and businesses within the state are permitted to sue large social media platforms (those with 50 million+ users) if they censor content or site accessibility based on those users' personal opinions expressed online.
  • “No option is off the table. We will do what is necessary to ensure that the free market, not government fiat, decides what speech digital services do and do not disseminate," said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, one of the two trade groups that challenged the Texas law. Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich remarked, “Multiple federal judges have affirmed over the years that online platforms have a First Amendment right to decide what appears on their platforms, and these judges chucked that principle overboard.
  • Something to consider: The federal appeals court ruling still needs to be evaluated on constitutionality and is likely to be appealed.

Court lets Texas restrictions on social platform content moderation take effect (The Verge)

Texas law inspired by Trump bans to take effect against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (USA Today)

Texas Regulation of Social Media Platforms Allowed by Appeals Court (Wall Street Journal)

by Jenna Lee,