By EDITOR | A battle has broken out in the US over the censorship practices of major social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Google or YouTube, TicToc and others. Conservative politicians and lawyers from Republican-ruled states are fighting new laws against partisanship by the corporations, which they denounce as a suppression of free speech.
The decision on a Texas law banning the current censorship practice hangs in the air, with the Supreme Court having the final say. Its decision to leave the decision on the life rights of the unborn (Roe v. Wade) to state legislatures sent shock waves through the liberal establishment. The interpretive sovereignty of left-wing Democrats and the liberal media could be severely damaged should the United States Supreme Court rule against corporate censorship. Such a decision would trigger a wave of similar laws in other conservative states and would have global consequences, including for Europe. It remains exciting…
Anti-censorship laws would open hunting season on social media groups
Texas law prohibits all social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly users from “blocking, prohibiting, removing, de-platforming, demonetising, de-boosting, restricting, denying equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminating against” their content.
Texas residents could sue social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the future if their postings are censored. The corporations will also have to disclose their approach to moderating content and their search and rating algorithms. Other Republican-ruled states are planning something similar, which would significantly limit the power of corporations and presumably weaken censorship measures worldwide. In addition, there are the not inconsiderable sums that are usually paid in fines in the USA, so there would also be the risk of major financial losses.
The new law was initiated by Ken Paxton, a lawyer who was financially supported in his election campaign by the Political Action Committee of the Conservatives (PAC), the PAC of the Texas Patriots (PAC Texas Patriots), because of his special achievements. Among other things, he successfully fought the Corona vaccination requirement in Texas and stood up for the right to life of the unborn [link].
Free speech and youth suicides through social media
The law would have meant enormous restrictions and legal uncertainties for the social media giants and at the same time strengthened citizens’ liberties. The background to this is the not unjustified criticism by conservatives that the corporations are violating the First Amendment through the censorship they exercise. The corporations argue their right to free speech, even though they are not citizens but only legal entities. The conservatives point to the monopoly position of providers such as Facebook Twitter, YouTube and TicToc, which is now so large that it should be regarded as critical infrastructure, similar to the postal system or the electricity grid. As a result, citizens’ freedom of speech is no longer guaranteed!
In addition, harmful algorithms are being used to addict children and young people, but also all other age groups. Many algorithms have been deliberately developed to damage the mental health of users. As a result, between 2009 and 2017, suicide attempts by young people increased by 25%, a trend that is still continuing and has even increased [link]. Calls are therefore being made for greater protection of people’s mental well-being.
The political left, on the other hand, as usual, does not think that the censorship policies of the corporations go far enough, as they can only enforce their usually unpopular measures through censorship. The Democrats therefore want to impose even stronger restrictions on freedom of expression than before on states governed by them [link]. As expected, the Black civil rights movement, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the LGBTQ lobby are on their side.
Legal wrangling in the courts
First, a district court overruled Texas’ legal position, then that decision was reversed by the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, so the law applied again!Paxton wrote on Twitter:
Then the Supreme Court intervened and suspended the law for the time being [link]! It is still going through the courts. It is very possible that this issue will go to the Supreme Court, which will have to make a final decision.
— Daniel Friend (@DanielJFriend) May 11, 2022
Texas is not the only state that wants to interfere with the arbitrary censorship measures of the tech giants: Florida (SB 7072), Michigan and Georgia have passed or are planning to pass similar laws. A whole avalanche of other conservative states could follow!
Does the conservative tech clash prevail?
Given the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court, most recently seen in the abortion ruling (Roe v Wade), the final decision could go against the tech giants.
Three justices on the high court who favoured a stay gave no reasons. Three other justices who rejected a temporary stay of the Texas law agreed in their reasoning with that of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeing social media providers with more than 50 million domestic users as part of the communications infrastructure.
The result of the judicial vote was a close 5-4 in favour of a temporary stay of the Texas law, and the judges also did not give reasons for their ruling. This could be a signal to other conservative states to pass similar laws [link].