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Texas law could allow users to sue social networks for censorship

(SOCIAL MEDIA) This Texas law could open social media companies to lawsuits regarding content moderation, account suspensions, and other censorship claims.

Dont mess with Texas y'all slogan, representing possible new Texas law regarding social media content moderation and censorship claims.

HB 20, a Texas law that would allow social media users (or Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton) to sue social media companies with more than 50 million users if they moderate content based on “the viewpoint of the user or another person” or “the viewpoint represented in the user’s expression.” HB20 is back on hold after the Supreme Court blocked the law in a 5-4 decision, sending it back to district courts.

The ruling came after the fifth circuit court of appeals judges removed a temporary injunction.

The see-saw movement of this case is frustrating and concerning for those involved and those who could be impacted later.

To be clear, the law is being challenged.

First amendment scholars have said it’s not the role of a social media platform to host all speech. Tech industry groups have said HB 20 will bring onerous legal expenses to companies forced to defend against multiple lawsuits. They have also challenged the law’s constitutionality.

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However the constitution alone rarely stops Attorney General Paxton, so here we are.

So what does that mean for business owners in Texas now?

Wait and see, and be aware.

Two tech industry groups, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetChoice, are challenging the law’s constitutionality. The SCOTUS decision allows that challenge to continue.

In the morass of madness that we’ve seen in unmoderated online social spaces, it’s important to know researchers are looking at how best to move forward. The social media space is still a new frontier. The way misinformation is disseminated and emotions are triggered by groups that have set out to use these media spaces as weapons can not be overlooked. Not by business owners now nor those looking to engineer a way into the sometimes profitable social media start-up. Staying on top of current research and law is essential.

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However, this new social media landscape is leading to new laws as well.

HB 20 won’t be the end of the state(s) attempts to stop social media platforms from moderating speech. Company leaders need to be aware. Many were caught off guard when the fifth circuit court of appeals judges lifted the injunction on HB 20. Had the Supreme Court not stepped in, the law would be in effect now in Texas. And as we’ve often seen, as goes law in Texas, so goes law elsewhere.

Staying on top of the changes over the past few months has been complicated, to say the least, but it is imperative business leaders do so.

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Mary Beth Lee retired from teaching in Texas this year after 28 years as a student media adviser. She spends her time these days reading, writing, fighting for public education and enjoying the empty nester life in Downtown Fort Worth.

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