A federal appeals court in New Orleans has ruled in favor of a Texas law that seeks to rein in the power of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to censor free speech.
"Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say," U.S. Circuit Court Judge Andrew Oldham wrote in the opinion.
Groups SueAfter the law, known as House Bill 20, was passed last year, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) sued.
The groups argued in their lawsuit that private companies like Facebook and Twitter have a First Amendment right to moderate content that's posted on their platforms and decide on what forms of speech to allow or ban.
A lower court sided with the lawsuit and decided to block the law, with Friday's ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturning that decision.
"The platforms argue that buried somewhere in the person's enumerated right to free speech lies a corporation's unenumerated right to muzzle speech," Oldham wrote in the opinion.
He said the implications of the big tech platforms' argument are "staggering" as they would allow entities like social media companies, banks, and mobile phone companies to cancel the accounts of people who express views or spend money in support of political parties or views such corporations oppose.
'Massive Victory' for Free SpeechTexas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been a staunch backer of the law, hailed the court’s decision in a statement on social media.
Carl Szabo, NetChoice vice president and general counsel, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the appeals court's ruling.
CCIA issued a statement saying that the 5th Court of Appeals' ruling infringes on private companies' First Amendment rights.
"'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," Matt Schruers, CCIA president, said in a statement.
An appeal of Friday's decision could put the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, where conservatives have a majority.