AUSTIN — A federal court in Texas tonight blocked the state’s new social media law that seeks to constrain social media companies’ ability to moderate speech on their platforms. The Texas legislature passed the law earlier this year after the Florida legislature had passed a similar law—the first of its kind in the nation. Last month, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed an amicus brief in the case challenging Florida’s law. In that case, which is pending in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Knight Institute urged the court to uphold, on narrow First Amendment grounds, the district court’s decision blocking the law.

The following can be attributed to Scott Wilkens, senior staff attorney, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“The court was right to block Texas’ social media law, which clearly violates the First Amendment. But neither the state nor the social media companies offered a persuasive or defensible interpretation of the First Amendment. Texas’ version would give governments vast power over public discourse. The companies' version would preclude even carefully drafted regulations designed to protect free speech online. In striking down blatantly unconstitutional laws like Texas’, courts should reject these two extreme views of the First Amendment.”

Both the Florida and Texas laws target social media platforms with a perceived liberal bias (e.g., Twitter and Facebook), and not smaller ones believed to support conservative viewpoints. In June, a district court in Florida enjoined that law, concluding that it discriminates against social media companies based on their viewpoint in violation of the First Amendment. 

Read the Knight Institute’s brief in the Florida case here

For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, [email protected]