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TEXAS (LifeSiteNews) – A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a Texas law barring political censorship from social media platforms may take effect while the argument over the law’s constitutionality works its way through the legal system.

Called “arguably the toughest and most significant restriction placed on Big Tech censorship passed by any state government” by Breitbart senior technology correspondent Allum Bokhari, HB20 treats social media platforms like “common carriers” of communication and transportation services in the United States, forbids viewpoint-based discrimination by those platforms, and empowers their users to seek injunctive relief for discriminatory actions such as bans or content removal.

NetChoice, an industry group representing numerous Big Tech giants, sued to block the law, and U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman agreed to place a temporary injunction on the law’s enforcement. The state of Texas appealed, and now the Fifth Circuit Panel has lifted the injunction, Fox News reports. The panel did not elaborate on its reasoning.

“These social media platforms control the modern-day public square, but they abusively suppress speech in that square,” Texas assistant solicitor general Ryan Baasch argued before the court.

It remains to be seen whether the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter will adapt to comply with the new law, or will attempt to continue resisting with another appeal. If they do comply, it will also remain to be seen whether changes are somehow confined to Texas users or, given the nature of global communication services, lead to more universal reforms.

Since 2016, Twitter, Facebook, and other major online information and communications platforms have grown more aggressive in down-ranking and suppressing political speech at odds with their left-wing politics, most infamously on the COVID-19 debate, election integrity, damaging stories on Democrat candidates, and transgenderism

Texas’s response to the issue follows legal reasoning articulated last year by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who argued that “[t]oday’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors. Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”

Among the “doctrines that limit the right of a private company to exclude,” he explained, was the legal obligation of “common carriers” to “serve all comers,” which dates back to the British common law underpinning the American legal system. “In exchange for regulating transportation and communication industries,” Thomas continued, “governments — both State and Federal — have sometimes given common carriers special government favors” such as “immunity from certain types of suits” or “regulations that make it more difficult for other companies to compete with the carrier,” in the process placing these companies “into a category distinct from other companies and closer to some functions, like the postal service, that the State has traditionally undertaken.” 

As many have noted in recent years, social media companies currently enjoy one such favor: Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which shields platforms against being held liable for content posted by individual users. Some argue Section 230 should be amended to make its shield contingent on true political neutrality, while others have advocated for repealing it entirely.