The law also does not cover sites devoted to news, sports, entertainment and other information that their users do not primarily generate. Covered sites are largely prohibited from removing posts based on the views they express, with the exception of child sexual exploitation, incitement to criminal activity, and certain threats of violence.
According to two business groups that have challenged the law, the measure “would force platforms to spread all sorts of objectionable views – such as Russian propaganda claiming its invasion of Ukraine is justified, Islamic State propaganda claiming extremism is justified, neo-Nazi or KKK screeds denying or supporting the Holocaust, and encouraging children to engage in risky or unhealthy behaviors like eating disorders.
The law requires platforms to be treated as common carriers that must deliver the bulk of their users’ messages rather than publishers with editorial discretion.
In a separate case last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit largely upheld a preliminary injunction against a similar Florida law.
“Social media platforms exercise editorial judgment that is inherently expressive,” Judge Kevin C. Newsom wrote for the panel. “When platforms choose to remove users or posts, deprioritize content from viewers’ streams or search results, or sanction violations of their Community Standards, they are engaging in activity protected by the First Amendment.
The First Amendment generally prohibits government restrictions on speech based on content and point of view. In their emergency petition to the Supreme Court, business groups challenging the Texas law said it violated those principles at all times. “HB 20 is a categorically unconstitutional law that requires certain private entities to speak in ways preferred by the government and would require a huge disruption to the global operations of covered websites,” the app says.
Responding to the emergency request, Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas, wrote that “Hubs are the 21st century descendants of telegraph and telephone companies: that is, traditional common carriers “. This means, Mr. Paxton wrote, that they generally have to accept all customers.