A U-Turn that Re-opens the Social Media Pandora Box

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Even though human beings have reached some crazy heights over the years, we didn’t get there without making a gazillion mistakes. In fact, each of our mistakes played an important in guiding us towards the right path. However, we got to mention the flipside as well. This flipside revolves around all those errors that actually left an indelible mark on the world, therefore forcing to look for a fitting response. Our response would come in the form of dedicated regulatory bodies. Having a clear-cut authority within each and every sector was a game-changer, as it literally made us more accountable than ever before. Unfortunately, the newfound dynamic couldn’t hold it against technology and its layered nature, which gave rule breakers a sizeable opportunity in regards to hiding their misdoings. This brought a whole new set of problems into the picture, but if anything, the regulatory industry won’t take it lying down. It will fight back, and in its latest punch, the industry takes on social media.

The US appeals court has formally allowed the Texas social media law, HB 20 to go into effect, reversing an earlier decision of blocking its implementation. According to the stated framework, the Texas government officials and residents can now sue social media platforms that predicate their moderation process on supposedly biased criteria. HB 20 law was birthed by a belief that many social media companies were unfairly censoring right-wing views. The Trump administration, in particular, talked about how these platforms were abusing the First Amendment Act, which, until now, protected them from any lawsuit over content moderation. With that security blanket now officially gone, it remains to be seen whether Big Tech companies such as Meta, Google, and Twitter are able to mount another fight back like they did last year when they were actually successful in keeping HB 20 at bay.

“In an unusual and unfortunate move, a split 2-1 Fifth Circuit panel lifted the injunction without ruling on the merits and without issuing an opinion explaining the order. Because HB 20 is constitutionally rotten through and through, we are weighing our options and plan to appeal the order immediately,” said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, one of the two trade groups that represented Big Tech companies in their lawsuit.

When asked to explain its decision, the panel likened social media platforms to your typical phone carriers, who are required to function under a stated set of regulations. The justification, of course, didn’t go down well with the HB 20 critics.

Scott Wilkens, senior staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute, commented on the decision saying:

“Texas’s law violates the First Amendment because it compels social media companies to publish speech they don’t want to publish. Worse, the theory of the First Amendment that Texas is advancing in this case would give government broad power to censor and distort public discourse,”

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