Supreme Court blocks controversial Texas social media law

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to block Texas’ social media censorship law, a major boon for tech companies that have fought against content moderation laws that would fundamentally change the way they do business.

Why is this important: Conservative states have launched a legal war against social media companies in a bid to stem what they see as a wave of censorship, but this decision, like other recent rulings, suggests they face a rise to prominence in the courts.

What is happening: The Supreme Court’s decision means Texas cannot enforce a new law that would allow Texans and the state’s attorney general to sue tech giants like Meta and YouTube over their content moderation policies.

  • The court order is not a final decision on the merits of Texas law, but when the courts freeze a particular law or policy, it is often a sign that the measure faces a difficult road on the bottom.
  • It comes just days after a federal appeals court ruled against a similar law in Florida.

Catch up fast: Texas passed its law last September and opponents immediately challenged it in federal court, winning an injunction suspending it from taking effect.

  • But earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law could go into effect immediately.
  • Opponents appealed this decision to the Supreme Court and won.

Details: Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts voted to restore the lower court injunction and block the law from taking effect.

  • Judges Neil Gorsuch, Elena Kagan, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voted against.
  • Alito wrote a dissent, saying, “It’s not at all clear how our existing precedents, which predate the internet age, should apply to large social media companies.”

And after: The case returns to the District Court, where arguments from both sides will be presented on the merits.

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