WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court has blocked a conservative-led Texas law aimed at stopping social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users based on their views.
The court Tuesday voted in an unusual 5-4 ruling to put Texas law on hold while a lawsuit is heard in lower courts.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to grant the emergency motion by two technology industry groups that challenged the law in federal court.
The majority offered no explanation for their decision, as is customary in emergencies, informally known as the court’s “shadow list”.
Judges Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch would have allowed the law to remain in effect.
In contrast, Alito wrote, “Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate and receive messages.”
It’s not clear how the High Court’s previous First Amendment cases, many of which predate the internet age, apply to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other digital platforms, Alito wrote in a statement joining Conservative colleagues Thomas and Joined Gorsuch but not Kagan.
The order follows a verdict last week by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that a similar law in Florida likely violated the First Amendment’s protections of free speech.
Republican-elected officials in several states have sponsored legislation, such as those passed in Florida and Texas, aimed at portraying social media companies as generally liberal in outlook and hostile to ideas outside of this view, particularly from the political right.
The Texas law was initially blocked by a district judge, but was then signed into law by a panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
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