The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a controversial Texas law that restricts companies’ ability to remove users or violative content on Friday.
The court’s decision lifts a previous injunction put in place by the Supreme Court, allowing the embattled law to go into effect.
“Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. Because the district court held otherwise, we reverse its injunction and remand for further proceedings,” the court said in its decision.
The court had previously lifted an injunction in place as the case was being weighed, but tech industry groups and civil society groups joined forces in urging the Supreme Court to take action to temporarily block the case again as it made its way forward. The Supreme Court issued a rare 5-4 decision to put the block back on the law in May.
The case may end up back before the Supreme Court based on its merits.
The Computers and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetChoice filed the lawsuit against Texas, arguing the law is unconstitutional and would undermine platforms’ ability to ban language such as pro-Nazi speech, terrorist propaganda and medical misinformation.
CCIA President Matt Schruers slammed the court’s decision Friday.
“Forcing private companies to give equal treatment to all viewpoints on their platforms places foreign propaganda and extremism on equal footing with decent Internet users, and places Americans at risk. ‘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,” Schruers said in a statement.
Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said the law could lead to more hate speech, harassment and misinformation online.
“Not only is that dangerous, but it throws out years of legal precedent affirming that online platforms have a First Amendment right to decide what appears on their sites,” he said in a statement.
The outcome of the case could have broader implications as other Republican-controlled states weigh action on addressing online content moderation. A similar Florida law is being challenged by the tech trade groups, as well.