This Ruling Could Change How The Internet Works

( A US court ruled against social media filtering its reader-provided content in Texas late last week. For the time being, the decision has no impact. However, it only served as a prelude to a Supreme Court ruling that might fundamentally alter the internet.

This is in reference to the dispute between NetChoice and Ken Paxton concerning HB 20, a statute that’s been previously discussed. According to HB 20, major social networks cannot remove (or hide, demonetize, or downrank) information or individuals based on “viewpoint.” Although it is promoted as an anti-“Big Tech” censorship bill, it is likely to apply to numerous websites other than the typical Facebook or YouTube behemoths. Despite denials from proponents, it would necessitate a drastic overhaul of many essential services, likely including lifting restrictions on things like hate speech and extremism.

A district court halted HB 20 after concluding it was probably unconstitutional. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals later voiced their disagreement. It provided a convincing rationale for the Supreme Court to establish a federal precedent.

The verdict, announced on Friday, consists primarily of a rant against online moderation in general. Mike Masnick of Techdirt has already broken down the details, but in short, Judge Andy Oldham believes that when private websites become sufficiently large-scale public services, they lose their First Amendment rights to editorial control. HB 20 “does not chill expression; if anything, it inhibits censorship,” according to Oldham’s assessment. However, the ruling hardly tries to relate that assertion to how social networks work. It openly ignores the genuine issues HB 20 raises for everyone using these platforms.

The case is being appealed in a lower court, and NetChoice convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to block the law’s implementation. Free Press senior lawyer Nora Benavidez says the decision may pave the way for a similar finding from the Supreme Court. Justices voted to let the platform restriction take effect. Other legal challenges will likely be made.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has approved several bills that will test the First Amendment’s safeguards for social media.