Netchoice, LLC and Computer and Communications Industry Association v. Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas, No. 21A720 (U.S. Supreme Court). Emergency Application filed May 13, 2022
When the state of Texas passed legislation that would limit the ability of internet social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others to remove or to ban content the sites deemed undesirable or outside the private companies’ internal rules and user agreements, those companies immediately sought to enjoin the legislation, arguing that Texas’s bill violates the corporations First Amendment rights, including but not limited to exercising editorial discretion over content provided by others.
The associations advocating for the social media sites successfully obtained an injunction halting the operation of the Texas law. Recently the United States Court of Appeals, without issuing an opinion detailing its reasoning, stayed the operation of the injunction, prompting the associations to seek the United States’ Supreme Court’s intervention to vacate the appellate court’s order.
Texas, by its Attorney General, observes that the massive online presences of social media sites has caused them to become modern public squares and, as such, when a site its open to some views, it must be open to all. Alternatively, Texas asserts that the platforms’ conduct may be regulated much as the conduct of common carries is, and that it is not speech but the act of removal of content or banning of posts or accounts that is open to statutory intervention without concern for the First Amendment.
Social media sites strenuously resist being required to offer appeals from removal of content or banning of accounts, and complain that that reporting requirements imposed by Texas are overwhelming. The companies state that compliance with Texas’s regime would be prohibitively costly and would require remaking of the corporations business methods, actions which would take a decade to accomplish.
The sites are extremely concerned because active operation of the Texas legislation will impact all operations throughout the United States.
The petitioning associations enjoy the support of more than a dozen industry-related entities, First Amendment advocates, and others with interest in online activity.
Texas, by comparison, is supported by other states and a few critical voices.
The timing of issuance of a decision on the emergency petition, addressed to Justice Alito as justice for the Fifth Circuit, but in light of the stringent briefing deadline imposed on the parties, it may be that a decision will be forthcoming very soon.
The legislation in issue:
Text of Texas H.B. 20
The emergency petition, Texas’s opposition, and petitioners’ reply:
21A720 Supreme Court Vacatur Application
21A720 Response to Application
21A720 Reply in Support of Emergency Application
Amicus Submissions for Applicants:
21A720 Amicus Brief of Christopher Cox
21A270 Amicus Brief of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, et al.
21A720 Amicus Brief of Professor Eric Goldman
21A720 Amicus Brief of Floor64 d/b/a/Copia Institute
21A720 Amicus Brief of Center for Democracy and Technology, et al.
21A720 Amicus Brief of TechFreedom
21A720 Amicus Brief of Chamber of Progress, et al.
21A720 Amicus Brief of The Cato Institute
Amicus Submissions for Respondent:
21A720 Amicus Brief of Philip Hamburger, et al.
21A720 Amicus Brief of Florida and 11 Other States