, 2022-09-16 19:18:00,
The ruling could have wide-ranging effects on the future of tech regulation, giving fresh ammunition to conservative politicians who have alleged that major tech companies are silencing their political speech.
But the decision diverges from precedent and recent rulings from the 11th Circuit and lower courts, and tech industry groups are likely to appeal.
Friday’s opinion was written by Judge Andrew Stephen Oldham, who was nominated to the 5th Circuit by President Donald Trump. He was joined by Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan appointee. Judge Leslie H. Southwick, a George W. Bush appointee, concurred in part and dissented in part.
In the opinion, Oldham wrote that while the First Amendment guarantees every person’s right to free speech, it doesn’t guarantee corporations the right to “muzzle speech.” The Texas law, he wrote, “does not chill speech; if anything, it chills censorship.”
The ruling criticized the tech industry’s arguments against the law, saying that under the companies’ logic, “email providers, mobile phone companies, and banks could cancel the accounts of anyone who sends an email, makes a phone call, or spends money in support of a disfavored political party, candidate, or business.”
An appeal of the decision could force the Supreme Court, where conservatives have a majority, to weigh in on internet regulation, which has become an increasingly politicized issue since the 2016 election. Liberals have called for new limits on the companies that would block the proliferation of harmful content and misinformation on the platforms, and conservatives have argued that the companies have gone too far in policing their sites, especially after the companies’ 2021 decision to ban Trump following the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol.
In an analysis shared with The Washington Post in July, the industry group Computer & Communications Industry Association, one of the groups that challenged the Texas law, identified more than 100 bills in state legislatures aimed at regulating social media content moderation policies. Many state legislatures have…
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