A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a Texas law that prohibits social media companies from banning users based on their political views. The law will take effect immediately following the ruling.
Governor Abbott signed the new law last September 9, prohibiting the social media giants from banning users based on their political views and requiring them to produce regular reports of removed content, create a complaint system, and disclose their content regulation procedures, according to Texas Tribune.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman blocked the law in December after NetChoice and CCIA filed a lawsuit claiming that the law violated their right to free speech under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to Judge Pitman, social media platforms are protected by the First Amendment and have the right to moderate content.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion to stay to allow Texas to implement the law while the state’s appeal continues.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel did not explain its reasoning for granting the state’s request for a stay of a December order by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, Texas, who had found that social media companies’ 1st Amendment rights would be harmed by allowing the law to take effect.
The order included a footnote that the three-judge panel, comprised of Circuit Judges Edith Jones, Leslie Southwick and Andrew Oldham, was not unanimous, though it did not say how it was divided. The judges were appointed by former Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs challenging the law — internet lobbying groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), whose members include Twitter, Facebook and Google — did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which is defending the law.
NetChoice and CCIA said in their lawsuit that the law violated their right to free speech under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by barring them from exercising editorial discretion over their private platforms.