A lawsuit challenging a Texas law banning censorship based on the views of social media companies could fundamentally change the way Big Tech companies are governed nationally if the law is passed by the Supreme Court, where it will land.
HB 20, a Texas bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, states that social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly users — including Google, Facebook and Twitter — cannot censor or restrict comments. user’s speech depending on how their views are expressed.
Social platforms are challenging the law in court on the grounds of First Amendment protections – but so far unsuccessfully, with a federal court ruling last week to uphold the law.
The argument in HB 20 that social media platforms are “common carriers,” like AT&T, FedEx, or American Airlines, would subject them to stricter regulations, like nondiscrimination laws, since they dominate the market for a common public service, and would be subject to those laws if true would be the focus of the case.
“The Court would just be confirming what we all already know, which is that these firms have kind of become essential to how we access the marketplace, how we communicate with one another, and how public opinion is formed.” “A common carriage custom would integrate what these businesses are currently into our larger beliefs and traditions of how we respect organizations like that.”
The businesses would be required to uphold tradition and constitutional requirements that people must be permitted to speak out on a platform, in this case an online one, and express their opinions. In this way, they would be seen as traditional public square soapboxes.
The Supreme Court is “certainly willing,” in the opinion of Rachel Bovard, a conservative policy analyst and senior tech columnist for The Federalist, to consider the case and provide “legal structure to an entirely new.”
A “common carrier” approach would not only be better for the Court to take, but it would also be advantageous for the companies, according to constitutional expert and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. He claims that the Big Tech platforms have “an insatiable appetite for censorship,” and that their push for censorship has cost them money.