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Tech companies got their way in Texas on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court just blocked a controversial law that allows Texas residents and the attorney general to sue social media companies over their content-moderation decisions. The law, HB 20, prohibits tech platforms from removing or restricting content based on “the viewpoint represented in the user’s expression” and was designed with conservative claims of tech’s liberal ideological bias in mind.
HB 20 passed in September but has had a rocky ride through the courts in the months that followed. It was swiftly blocked by an injunction after passing, but a trio of federal appeals court judges paused the temporary injunction earlier this month in a surprise win for the law’s proponents.
The Supreme Court ruling isn’t the final word on HB 20, which still faces a lawsuit from two tech industry groups, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetChoice, challenging its constitutionality.
After the surprise decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unblocked the law earlier in May, the tech trade groups asked the Supreme Court to intervene with an emergency stay. Justice Samuel Alito reviewed the request and ultimately brought the case to the broader Supreme Court for the interim decision.
Justices John Roberts, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s ruling. Justice Alito and Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch voted against vacating the ruling.
“While I can understand the Court’s apparent desire to delay enforcement of HB20 while the appeal is pending, the preliminary injunction entered by the District Court was itself a significant intrusion on state sovereignty,” Alito wrote in his dissent.
In a statement following the Supreme Court ruling, NetChoice celebrated the win while acknowledging that it is only “halfway there” as the case makes its way to district court.
“Texas’s HB 20 is a constitutional trainwreck,” NetChoice Counsel Chris Marchese said. “We are relieved that the First Amendment, open internet, and the users who rely on it remain protected from Texas’s unconstitutional overreach.”