United States: the Supreme Court suspends a Texas anti-censorship law on social networks

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday (May 31) suspended a Texas law that restricts the editorial room for maneuver of social networks, without solving the thorny fundamental problem that pits supporters of stricter content moderation against policies that evoke social media. “censorship”.

Last September, the Governor of Texas passed a law that prohibits social networks from banning users “according to their political opinions”behalf “freedom of speech”. US conservative lawmakers regularly accuse Facebook, YouTube (Google) and Twitter, among others, of “censorship” towards them and biased in favor of the Democrats, even if many governors and representatives of both political sides use the major platforms to their advantage. The new law was challenged by a court, then came into force after it went through an appeals court. But organizations representing the technology giants filed a petition with the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor on Tuesday, temporarily, pending the decision on the merits of the court of appeal.

The Texas law threatens to undo years of work by activists around the world to get social media to take hate, harassment and misinformation seriously. »

The NGO Center for Democracy and Technology

Businesses “affirm” that the new Texas law “interferes with the exercise of their “editorial judgment” and claim that this interference violates their right “not to disseminate speech generated by others”notes conservative judge Samuel Alito in his explanation. “In certain circumstances, we have recognized the right of organizations to refuse to host the expression of others. But we rejected it in other circumstances”he ponders. “It is not at all clear whether these precedents, which predate the age of the Internet, should apply to large social networks”.

The two clashing clans all claim freedom of expression, defined by the First Amendment to the American Constitution, which prohibits the government from censoring – but not companies. Tensions between Californian groups and Republicans have worsened since Donald Trump’s exclusion from major platforms in early 2021, when he encouraged, via the networks, the rioters who invaded Congress in Washington on January 6, killing five people.

Facebook and its competitors defend themselves from censorship, and put forward rules aimed at promoting peaceful exchanges, while many NGOs and democrats call on them to be even more severe against hate speech. “Texas Law Threatens to Undo Years of Work by Activists Around the World to Get Social Media to Take Hate, Harassment and Misinformation Seriously”, commented the NGO Center for Democracy and Technology. An appeals court recently ruled that a similar law passed in Florida violates the First Amendment.

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