The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld Texas's “free speech” law on Friday, which would prevent social media companies from censoring certain viewpoints online.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that the ruling was a major win.
“I just secured a MASSIVE VICTORY for the Constitution & Free Speech in fed court: #BigTech CANNOT censor the political voices of ANY Texan,” said a tweet from Paxton. The tweet also included a screenshot of part of the court’s order.
According to the tweet, Fifth Circuit Judge Adam Oldham rejected the idea that “corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”
Internet Accountability Project President and founder Mike Davis cheered the court ruling as a "Major legal victory for the American people against Big Tech platforms that stifle our free speech rights online" in a tweet. "Judge Andy Oldham upholds Texas law forbidding viewpoint discrimination by social-media platforms with at least 50 million users--YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter."
But Davis was not alone in applauding the decision. Alex Berenson, a journalist who sued Twitter for censoring his tweets, also praised the ruling. NewsBusters reported earlier in the year that Berenson’s lawsuit against Twitter would proceed. The platform reinstated Berenson in July after he settled the lawsuit, which accused Twitter of acting “on behalf of the federal government in censoring and barring him from access to its platform.”
“BOOM! I say again, BOOM! The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just said @twitter and other social media platforms don’t have an unlimited right to discriminate against speech,” he tweeted. “Let a thousand flowers bloom.”
Meanwhile, tech groups representing the interests of Big Tech companies, among others, claim that the ruling will lead to the violation of social media companies’ free speech rights.
Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) President Matt Schruers said in a company press release that allowing the law to go into effect will put “extremism on equal footing with decent internet users.” CCIA members include Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Mozilla, Vimeo, Pinterest and other Big Tech companies.
“We strongly disagree with the court’s decision,” he said. “Forcing private companies to give equal treatment to all viewpoints on their platforms places foreign propaganda and extremism on equal footing with decent Internet users, and places Americans at risk. ‘God Bless America’ and ‘Death to America’ are both viewpoints, and it is unwise and unconstitutional for the State of Texas to compel a private business to treat those the same.”
NetChoice, a group that has as association members TikTok, Amazon.com, Meta, Google, PayPal and other Big Tech companies, said it was “disappointed” in the ruling and warned that allowing “awful and offensive content” to remain online is dangerous.
The company posted a link to the court’s full ruling.
“We are disappointed that the Fifth Circuit’s split decision undermines First Amendment protections and creates a circuit split with the unanimous decision of the Eleventh Circuit,” NewChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo said in the company’s press release. “We remain convinced that when the U.S. Supreme Court hears one of our cases, it will uphold the First Amendment rights of websites, platforms, and apps.”
Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the CensorTrack contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.