The Supreme Court suspended a Texas law banning online platforms from restricting user posts based on their political views, a major win for social media companies. The 5-4 ruling granted an emergency stay request from tech industry groups. The companies have argued the law violates their First Amendment rights to control content they disseminate on their websites and platforms, reports Politico. The law, which a federal appeals court allowed to go into effect May 11, allows both the state of Texas and individual Texans to sue companies if they “censor” an individual based on their viewpoints or their geographic location by banning them or blocking, removing or otherwise discriminating against their posts.
Tuesday’s decision means the law will remain blocked as the case moves through the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett granted the stay, which overturned the 5th Circuit ruling lifting an earlier injunction from a Texas district court. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent that was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. While Justice Elena Kagan also dissented, she didn’t join Alito’s dissent nor did she explain her reasoning. The law could drastically change the way social media companies operate by restricting their freedom to police their platforms and forcing the platforms to justify decisions they make on multitudes of posts a day. The tech industry and its supporters, including the NAACP and groups representing LGBTQ people, warn that the law could also unleash a tide of hate speech, violent rhetoric and other extremist content — which could be construed as “viewpoints” — on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.