WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court has blocked a Texas law, championed by conservatives, that sought to prevent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users based on their views.
The court voted in an unusual 5-4 alignment on Tuesday to suspend the Texas law, while a trial unfolds in the lower courts.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to grant the emergency request of two tech industry groups who challenged the law in federal court.
The majority offered no explanation for their decision, as is common in emergency cases on what is informally known as a “shadow case”.
Judges Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch would have allowed the law to remain in effect.
Dissenting, Alito wrote, “Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and get news.
It is unclear how previous High Court First Amendment cases, many of which predate the internet age, apply to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other digital platforms, Alito wrote in an opinion. joined by fellow conservatives Thomas and Gorsuch but not Kagan.
The order follows a ruling last week by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found a similar Florida law likely violated First Amendment free speech protections.
Republican lawmakers in several states have backed laws like those enacted in Florida and Texas that sought to portray social media companies as generally liberal and hostile to ideas outside that view, particularly from the political right.
The Texas law was initially blocked by a district judge, but was later allowed to go into effect by a panel of the 5th United States Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans.
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