September 17th, 2022
US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
NetChoice v. Paxton
Opinion Date: September 16, 2022
Judge: Andrew S. Oldham
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law
This case involves HB 20, a Texas statute that regulates large social media platforms. The law regulates platforms with more than 50 million monthly active users (“Platforms”), such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Section 120.002(b). In enacting HB 20, the Texas legislature found that the Platforms “function as common carriers are affected with a public interest, are central public forums for public debate, and have enjoyed governmental support in the United States.” The platforms urged the Fifth Circuit to hold that the statute is facially unconstitutional and hence cannot be applied to anyone at any time and under any circumstances.
The Fifth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction, explaining that the court rejects the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. The court explained that the Platforms’ attempt to extract freewheeling censorship right from the Constitution’s free speech guarantee. The Platforms are not newspapers. Their censorship is not speech. They’re not entitled to pre-enforcement facial relief. And HB 20 is constitutional because it neither compels nor obstructs the Platforms’ own speech in any way. The district court erred in concluding otherwise and abused its discretion by issuing a preliminary injunction.
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