Home / News / World /  US appeals court bars social media companies' right to regulate online speech: Report

A United States appeals court on Friday upheld a Texas law that reportedly 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, according to Reuters report. This development comes as companies have reportedly sought to preserve rights to regulate user content, believing it may lead to violence, citing concerns that unregulated platforms will enable extremists such as Nazi supporters, terrorists and hostile foreign governments, the report said.

Judge Andrew Oldham, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, wrote in the ruling, “today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say." Notably, the Texas law was passed by the state's Republican-led legislature and signed by its Republican governor and 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, Twitter and Alphabet Inc's YouTube as members, according to Reuters report.

The association on Friday said it disagreed with forcing private companies to give equal treatment to all viewpoints, noting in a statement, “'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."

The Reuters report further stated that some conservatives 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, the Reuters report said while adding that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Twitter hailed the ruling as “massive victory for the constitution and free speech."

(With inputs from Reuters)

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