WASHINGTON (TND) — Social media platforms are celebrating after the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency stay on a Texas law that would have prevented big tech companies from banning content and users on their platforms.
The law was passed to prevent so-called censorship of users, some of whom feel they were banned for their political views.
Those opposed said it would have unleashed a flurry of hate speech and ISIS propaganda, among other things, and argued the First Amendment deals with government infringing on speech, not private companies and that the First Amendment actually applies to those private companies.
The law, known as House Bill 20, allows people living or working in Texas to sue social media sites if they were banned from a platform based on the content of their speech.
"It prevents social media companies from banning users based upon the user's political viewpoints," Gov. Greg Abbott said when he signed the law in September.
The law was blocked from going into effect by Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
The dissent was signed by Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch but the liberal-leaning Justice Elena Kagan also dissented, wanting the law to remain in effect for now.
Those celebrating the emergency ruling say when it comes to online platforms regulating content, they not only have a role and responsibility but also a right.
“When a private business says we don’t want Nazi propaganda or Russian disinformation happening on our premises, that business is exercising its own First Amendment rights to decide what’s appropriate for their users and their communities," said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association and one of the plaintiffs in the case.
The temporary ruling is a win for the big tech industry as lower courts weigh the constitutionality of the Texas law as well as a similar one in Florida.
The matter is expected to return to the Supreme Court as lawmakers in Congress, who have spent years trying to regulate big tech, insist they are now closer than ever to doing so.
In a Dec. 15 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, spoke about his support for some regulations.
“These big tech companies are using their dominant monopoly power to favor themselves and that monopoly power harms small businesses," he said.
Several bills now moving through Congress have the support of both Democrats and Republicans, including the American Innovation and Online Choice Act which deals with major platforms giving preference to their own products.
In an interview with CNBC, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., talked about legislation he's working on with Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., which would allow academic research into algorithms that drive social media platforms.
“This would allow Congress and the public, going forward, to be better informed, to understand based on data, what these social media platforms are actually doing to our society," Coons said.
For now, it is a society largely influenced by what is posted online, with the laws surrounding those posts still being worked out.