The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has upheld a Texas social media law that bars companies from removing posts or banning users based on a user’s viewpoints – especially based on political ideology – which overturns a lower court’s decision to block the law.
The opinion was written by Judge Andrew Stephen Oldham, a judge nominated to the 5th Circuit Court by President Donald Trump. Judge Oldham was joined by Judge Edith Jones, a President Ronald Reagan appointee. Judge Leslie H. Southwick, a President George W. Bush appointee, concurred in part and dissented in part.
In Judge Oldham’s opening statement, he wrote:
In urging such sweeping relief, the platforms offer a rather odd inversion of the First Amendment. That Amendment, of course, protects every person’s right to ‘the freedom of speech.’ But the platforms argue that buried somewhere in the person’s enumerated right to free speech lies a corporation’s unenumerated right to muzzle speech.
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.
BREAKING: I just secured a MASSIVE VICTORY for the Constitution & Free Speech in fed court: #BigTech CANNOT censor the political voices of ANY Texan! The 5th Circuit “reject[s] the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. pic.twitter.com/UijlzYcv7r
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) September 16, 2022
The court ultimately concluded:
Seth Dillon of the Babylon Bee, a Christian and conservative satire website that was censored by Twitter for mocking transgender Admiral Rachel Levine.
“March 2022: Twitter locks out the Babylon Bee,” wrote Dillon, adding that in September the 5th Circuit determined “the law is constitutional because it chills censorship, not speech.”
March 2022: Twitter locks out the Babylon Bee for making a joke they didn't like.
Sept 2022: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the earlier decision on HB 20, saying the law is constitutional because it chills censorship, not speech.
— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) September 20, 2022
The decision made by the 5th Circuit Court “broke” many left-leaning users of social media.
Shoshana Weissmann, Digital Director & Fellow at R Street Institute tweeted that she was had “a box of tissues and ice cream” to dive into the 5th Circuit ruling. Claims that the Court rewrote the First Amendment started circling the web.
Alejandra Caraballo tweeted “If you want examples of unchecked social media driven by algorithmic amplification, look at Myanmar and the Rohingya or northern India and Muslims.”
5th Circuit broke BlueAnon pic.twitter.com/FeOmEuNxoy
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) September 20, 2022
People need to realize that without content moderation, all social media will turn into hate filled cess pits that incite violence. If you want examples of unchecked social media driven by algorithmic amplification, look at Myanmar and the Rohingya or northern India and Muslims.
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) September 17, 2022
The 5th Circuit has completely upended and rewritten the 1st Amendment. This is an astoundingly stupid ruling. https://t.co/zp6tvvWamL
— Mike Masnick (@mmasnick) September 16, 2022
Conservatives, meanwhile, celebrated the decision, with many hoping it will signal an end to the big tech censorship that began with controversial right wing figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, and Alex Jones, and eventually saw 45th President Donald Trump banned from social media while in the White House.