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SCOTUS Blocks Texas Social Media Censorship Law

SCOTUS Blocks Texas Social Media Censorship Law

A divided Supreme Court has blocked a Texas law backed by conservatives that aimed to keep social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users based on their viewpoints. The Texas law was initially blocked by a district judge, but was then allowed to take effect by a panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Justices voted in an unusual 5-4 alignment Tuesday to put the Texas law on hold, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett all voting to grant the emergency request from two technology industry groups that challenged the law in federal court. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch would have allowed the law to remain in effect while a lawsuit plays out in lower courts.

(Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

The order follows a ruling last week by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found a similar Florida law likely violates the First Amendment’s free speech protections. Republican elected officials in several states have backed laws like those enacted in Florida and Texas that sought to portray social media companies as generally liberal in outlook and hostile to ideas outside of that viewpoint, especially from the political right.

It’s not clear how the high court’s past First Amendment cases, many of which predate the internet age, apply to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and other digital platforms, Alito wrote in an opinion joined by fellow conservatives Thomas and Gorsuch but not Kagan. In his dissent, Alito wrote, “Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and obtain news.”

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Meanwhile, the high court is focusing on the leak of a draft ruling that would end abortion rights at the federal level, allowing states to individually determine their own abortion laws, rather than focusing on maintaining Roe v. Wade as settled law or other issues.

 

 

 

 

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