Critics warn regulations may lead to more hate speech and disinformation online.
For days gone by year, Texas has been fighting in court to uphold a controversial law that could ban tech companies from content moderation predicated on viewpoints. IN-MAY, the Supreme Court narrowly blocked regulations, but this appeared to do little to stay the problem. Today, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lesser Texas court’s decision to block regulations, ruling instead that the Texas law be upheld, The Washington Post reported.
Based on the Post, because two circuit courts attained differing opinions, the ruling is “likely establishing a Supreme Court showdown on the future of online speech.” For the time being, the 5th Circuit Court’s opinion will make it tempting for other states to pass similar laws.
Trump-nominated Judge Andrew Stephen Oldham joined two other conservative judges in ruling that the initial Amendment doesn’t grant protections for corporations to “muzzle speech.”
John Bergmayer, the legal director of Public Knowledge (a public interest group defending online consumer rights), provided a statement to Ars suggesting that the 5th Circuit Court’s decision might not stand.
“The Fifth Circuit has ignored decades of First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent and unlike recent Supreme Court ordersto reach a seemingly politically motivated decision which will have disastrous effects if it’s not immediately reversed,” Bergmayer said.
The Post reported that some tech industry representatives also oppose the newest decision to uphold regulations and intend to weigh options to appeal. Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, is really a vocal challenger of the Texas law. He’s quoted by the Post as calling the ruling “Orwellian” since it grants government capacity to dictate “what businesses must say” in the name of protecting free speech.
“The Texas law compels private enterprises to distribute dangerous content which range from foreign propaganda to terrorist incitement, and places Americans at an increased risk,” Schruers said.
Bergmayer said the verdict might lead to platforms to reduce their capability to effectively stop the spread of hate speech, abuse, and misinformation. He suggests the ruling means that newspapers could possibly be ordered to create propaganda or email spam filters could become illegal because it is a tech company blocking political speech.
“Platforms have to be regulated in lots of respects, but rulings such as this problem serious attempts to safeguard consumers online,” Bergmayer warned.