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U.S. appeals court rejects big tech's right regulate online speech

Stock Markets Sep 17, 2022 09:30AM ET
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(Corrects to largely 2-1 ruling in second paragraph)

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld a Texas law that bars large social media companies from banning or censoring users based on "viewpoint," a setback for technology industry groups that say the measure would turn platforms into bastions of dangerous content.

The largely 2-1 ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, sets up the potential for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the law, which conservatives and right-wing commentators have said is necessary to prevent "Big Tech" from suppressing their views.

"Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say," Judge Andrew Oldham, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, wrote in the ruling.

The Texas law was passed by the state's Republican-led legislature and signed by its Republican governor.

The tech groups that challenged the law and were on the losing end of Friday's ruling include NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which count Meta Platforms' Facebook (NASDAQ:META), Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc's YouTube as members.

They have sought to preserve rights to regulate user content when they believe it may lead to violence, citing concerns that unregulated platforms will enable extremists such as Nazi supporters, terrorists and hostile foreign governments.

The association on Friday said it disagreed with forcing private companies to give equal treatment to all viewpoints. "'God Bless America' and 'Death to America' are both viewpoints, and it is unwise and unconstitutional for the state of Texas to compel a private business to treat those the same," it said in a statement.

Some conservatives have labeled the social media companies' practices abusive, pointing to Twitter's permanent suspension of Trump from the platform shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters. Twitter had cited "the risk of further incitement of violence" as a reason.

The Texas law forbids social media companies with at least 50 million monthly active users from acting to "censor" users based on "viewpoint," and allows either users or the Texas attorney general to sue to enforce the law.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Twitter hailed the ruling as "massive victory for the constitution and free speech."

Because the 5th Circuit ruling conflicts with part of a ruling by the 11th Circuit, the aggrieved parties have a stronger case for petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the matter.

In May, the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, found that most of a similar Florida law violates the companies' free speech rights and cannot be enforced.

(This story corrects to largely 2-1 ruling in second paragraph)

U.S. appeals court rejects big tech's right regulate online speech
 

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Comments (19)
Tyler Phillis
Tyler Phillis Sep 17, 2022 4:55PM ET
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I see no one arguing the property rights violation the TX law commits. Apparently if it is not spelled out in the law its fair game for the authoritarian Right wing.
JIM VETTER
JIM VETTER Sep 17, 2022 1:48PM ET
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Social media is a cesspool of liberalism and propaganda. They have zero intent to honor freedom of speech. Leftists spew much more dangerous concepts and hatred, yet they are protected by tech. They prove everyday they are passively abortingadmitting they can't win a debate on a level playing field. Social media is sickening and pathetic
Adrian White
Adrian White Sep 17, 2022 1:48PM ET
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Jim, based on what you just wrote, you seem to be the one 'spewing hatred'.
gab nea
gab nea Sep 17, 2022 12:52PM ET
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both media companies are too big and need to be anti trusted, period!
Todd Gray
Todd Gray Sep 17, 2022 12:32PM ET
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Bastions of dangerous content? What that means, is if you don't agree with their MK Ultra simulacra propaganda, you're not on their team. And, that would be bad for their world *******push.
Warm Camp
Warm Camp Sep 17, 2022 12:05PM ET
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The law deals with 50+M audiences. Regulating of free speech for such a large segment of population certainly affects free speech rights of the population, effectively removing the word “free”. If someone cannot speak free to 50M or more people, then free speech does not exist anymore.
Arthur Mejinyan
Arthur Mejinyan Sep 17, 2022 11:03AM ET
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Hate speech on social media could lead us to civil war.
Warm Camp
Warm Camp Sep 17, 2022 11:03AM ET
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Prohibition, aka “regulation”, of free speech leads to totalitarian, fascist state.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 17, 2022 11:03AM ET
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That would be true if the sate was prohibiting speech, but it's not. Get your facts straight.
Warm Camp
Warm Camp Sep 17, 2022 11:03AM ET
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Brad Albright  It does not matter whether free speech is regulated by state or by a large online entity. The fascist state has many ways to influence big entities to behave like the state wants.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 17, 2022 11:03AM ET
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Of course it matters. You are ignorant of the US Constitution, comrade.
Warm Camp
Warm Camp Sep 17, 2022 11:03AM ET
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Brad Albright  Most likely, I know US Constitution better than you. Also, your constant attempts to add insulting to exchanges are pathetic.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 17, 2022 10:59AM ET
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"The largely 2-1 ruling..." What?
Deborah Holloway
Deborah Holloway Sep 17, 2022 10:37AM ET
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I can't wait to scream ,"Fire!" in a crowded movie theatre! Free speech!
Warm Camp
Warm Camp Sep 17, 2022 10:37AM ET
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You are not in a movie theater.
CONSTANTIN CATU
CONSTANTIN CATU Sep 17, 2022 10:37AM ET
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You must be very smart.
CONSTANTIN CATU
CONSTANTIN CATU Sep 17, 2022 10:37AM ET
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You must be very smart.
Tony Hall
Tony Hall Sep 17, 2022 10:32AM ET
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The constitution won out today. No matter what your point of view, this is a victory for all of us. For those against the constitutional ruling, dont think for a minute that these types of companies care for you. You are nothing more then a pawn for the moment and if enough corruption takes over and the constitution goes away, you will be next
Tyler Phillis
Tyler Phillis Sep 17, 2022 10:32AM ET
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Property rights are not subordinate to free speech. You must be free to speak in order to peacefully defend your property, which includes your self-ownership. Losing free speech rights leads to the loss of property rights and eventually slavery.
Tony Hall
Tony Hall Sep 17, 2022 10:32AM ET
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Tyler Phillis it doesnt take a crystal ball to see what some companies are doing to supress individuals from expressing their point of view, if it does not agree with their views. Personal property has zero barring on this case when a company crosses into violation of your constitutional rights. Why would you or anyone defend such a thing. Because this time you agree with their point of view. You choose a precedent for yourself and all of us for the next time you loose. Get off your political train and think about what you truly want for the future of your family and this country.
Peter Andersen
Peter Andersen Sep 17, 2022 10:29AM ET
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Like free abortionnnn see not a lot to say it a big mistake that a shame USA come and bibbbb if you say biggg titssss come on 1857 no 2022 come on
 
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