The Fifth U.S. District Court of Appeals has on pause the temporary injunction of the disputed law HB 20, which another court blocked from coming into force last year. Like Public media in Houston notes that the state introduced HB 20 last year after high-ranking conservatives, including Donald Trump, were blocked on social media websites. Under the law, consumers will be able to sue major social media platforms with more than 50 million active monthly users, such as Facebook and Twitter, if they believe they have been banned because of their political views. HB 20 also prohibits social networks from removing or restricting content based on “the user’s or another person’s point of view”.

Trade industry groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) managed to secure an injunction last year. They claim that HB 20 will lead to the spread of misinformation and hate speech on social networks and that it also violates the rights of the First Amendment websites. The federal judge supervising the case agreed that social networks have the right to moderate content under the First Amendment, as well as said that parts of the law are “incredibly vague.”

At a hearing on the Texas lawsuit, state attorneys say social media platforms are “modern public squares.” This means that they may be required to host content they deem unwanted and are prohibited from censoring certain views. District Judges took the Texas side, and one even told trade groups during the hearing that social networks like Twitter were not websites, but “Internet providers” instead.

NetChoice adviser Chris Marchez called HB 20 “an attack on the First Amendment” and “constitutional rot from top to bottom” on Twitter. The trade groups plan to appeal immediately, but for now HB 20 is fully in force.

A federal court blocked a similar law in Florida last year after a judge ruled it violated section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online platforms from liability for what their users post. Florida is also appealing this decision, which will be decided by the 11th District Court of Appeals.

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