Texas was dealt a setback in its efforts to regulate social media, but it got some support from an unlikely member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case was Netchoice, LLC. vs. Paxton, Texas' novel approach to allowing people who have been de-platformed by social media companies — namely Twitter and Facebook — to sue over those actions. In a 5-4 decision, the Court blocked the state from implementing the law, also known as House Bill 20.
Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas voted against blocking the law. Interestingly, liberal Justice Elena Kagan indicated that she would have allowed the law to go into effect — however, she did not join Alito's opinion.
While recognizing the challenges of the internet's place as a town hall, coupled with the rights of private businesses, Alito said the plaintiffs in the case should have gone through the state courts first.
"Applicants sought pre-enforcement review of the statute in federal court, so it is not clear how state courts would interpret this statute if it were applied to applicants' businesses; nor has it been resolved which platforms are covered by the law," Alito wrote in his dissent.
A district court initially blocked the law before the Fifth District Court of Appeals overturned that decision. The law was in response to Twitter and Facebook booting former President Donald Trump off their platforms after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The law intended to go into effect against companies with 50 million registered users but faced opposition from a broad coalition of First Amendment advocates. Social media companies have suspended or banned thousands for hate speech, threats of violence or spreading misinformation. Determining what constitutes misinformation has been at the heart of the argument.
(Disclosure: The Lead receives financial support from Meta — the parent company of Facebook.)