Texas’s divided Court has stopped a Texas law that was championed conservatively and aimed to prevent social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter from restricting user views. The court decided Tuesday in a unusual 5-4 arrangement to suspend the Texas law while it is being litigated in lower courts.
Chief justice John Roberts, Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor and Brett Kavanaugh voted in favor of the two requests from technology companies that had challenged the law at federal court.
The majority did not explain its decision as it is customary in emergencies on the “shadow docket” of the court. “
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch would have allowed the law to remain in effect.
In dissent, Alito wrote, “Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and obtain news. It’s unclear how many First Amendment cases that have been decided by the court in the past, which date back to the Internet age, can be applied to Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms. Alito shared his opinion with Gorsuch and Thomas, but not Kagan.
The order follows a ruling last week by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that a Florida law similar to the one in Florida violates First Amendment free speech protections.
Republican elected officials in several states have backed laws like those enacted in Florida and Texas that sought to portray social media companies as generally liberal in outlook and hostile to ideas outside of that viewpoint, especially from the political right.
The Texas law was first blocked by a District Judge, but it was then approved by the panel of New Orleans’ 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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