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Texas law allows users to sue Facebook and Twitter for 'censoring' their views

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A federal appeals court in Texas has issued a ruling that effectively enables residents of Texas, or the Texas Attorney General's Office, to sue Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or other large social media networks for moderating content based on «the viewpoint of the user or another person.» HB20, «Relating to censorship of or certain other interference with digital expression, including expression on social media platforms or through electronic mail messages,» says social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly active users «may not censor a user, a user's expressions, or a user's ability to receive the expression of another person,» based on a person's point of view or geographic location.

It was passed in September 2021 but blocked by a federal court a few months later, on the grounds that the law is likely to violate the First Amendment, which protects the rights of online platforms to editorial discretion.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that injunction, however, meaning that the law can immediately go into effect. The hearing, according to a Protocol report, was a mess: One judge insisted that Twitter is not a website but an «internet provider,» while another was concerned that if Twitter and Facebook prevailed, phone companies would be able to disconnect telephone calls if they heard speech they don't like.

There was also confusion about the difference between internet service providers and «interactive computer services,» a sort of catch-all term for companies including social media platforms that are broadly protected from legal responsibility for content posted by their users.

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