The Facebook application on a mobile phone.

The Facebook application on a mobile phone.
The Facebook application on a mobile phone.SASCHA STEINBACH SASCHA STEINBACH (EFE)

The Supreme Court of the United States has temporarily blocked this Tuesday a law promoted by the Government of Texas that prohibits technology companies from deleting content and political opinions on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Vimeo, Instagram or any other with more than 50 million of monthly users. The decision, adopted after a vote of 5-4 in the Constitutional Court, gives the lower courts more time to resolve the substance of the matter in the coming months: the freedom of expression enshrined in the first amendment of the Constitution. “This ruling means that companies will have a chance to be heard in court before they are forced to disseminate vile, abusive or extremist content thanks to this rule,” said Matt Schruers, president of the Television Industry Association. Computing and Communications (AICC).

Celebrating the decision, Schruers has stated that “no platform, page or newspaper should be forced by the Government to carry any type of content.” “This has been a fundamental principle of our democracy for more than 200 years and the Supreme Court has endorsed it today,” she said in a statement. The organization, along with Net Choice, filed an emergency motion with the Supreme Court on May 13 requesting protection for considering the so-called Texas Social Networks Law unconstitutional.

The progressive bloc prevailed over the conservative in this case. Right-wing judge Samuel Alito filed a dissenting vote stating that he would have preferred to keep the rule, which went into effect thanks to a split vote on the appeals circuit. This opinion was joined by Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, other gowns with a conservative profile. Judge Elena Kagan also submitted a dissenting opinion, but did not elaborate on her opinion, a common practice in emergency motions.

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If it had remained in force, the rule would have allowed the Texas prosecutor and users to sue technology companies for their content moderation policies, which would result in a ban on content regulation for platforms. “That the Supreme Court has noted the constitutional risks of this law is not only important for technology companies and freedom of expression, but a very important principle for democracies,” considered the AICC.

The technology companies had described the rule promoted by the Republican government as an “unprecedented assault on the editorial decisions of private web pages, which could transform the business model and services.” The emergency petition promoted by organizations defending freedom of expression on the Internet, considered that the rule represented “irreparable damage.” “Platforms should not be forced by governments to disseminate vile speeches such as white supremacism, Nazi harangues, Russian propaganda, Holocaust denial or recruitment of criminal organizations,” indicated the text presented to the Constitutional Court.

fight against technology

Other than Texas, Florida is the only other state that has a law that attempts to regulate social media. The regulations of these crucial Republican strongholds were approved in a context in which the governments of this party are trying to reduce the influence of technology companies. On Monday, an 11th Circuit court of appeals struck down Florida’s rule, saying the restraint policies of private companies were beyond the control of local politicians.

This is just one of the offensives that the Texas attorney, Republican Ken Paxton, has launched against technology companies. In mid-May, millions of Instagram users in the state realized they couldn’t use filters with puppy ears. Besides this, many other effects were not available on the entity. This was due to a lawsuit that Paxton had taken to court against Meta (Facebook), for the use of biometric data. The lawsuit forced Mark Zuckerberg’s company to update its privacy policies for the region.

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Paxton considers the big technology companies to be the heirs of the 21st century to the telegraph and telephone, so their services should be regulated like those of any “ordinary” company. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that the digital platforms are part of a movement that aims to silence “conservative ideas and religious beliefs.” The rule approved by the Republican majority in September of last year required companies to prepare reports on censored content, create a complaints system and reveal their moderation policies. The issue has proven controversial in the case of Twitter and its sale to Elon Musk.

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