The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked enforcement of a Texas law permitting people to sue social media companies for suppressing their posts — with a surprise coalition of justices creating a narrow majority in favor of Big Tech.
The high court voted 5-4 to grant an emergency request from two industry groups that claim the Republican-backed measure would open the floodgates to hate speech and misinformation, turning online public platforms into “havens of the vilest expression imaginable.”
The ruling put the law on hold while it’s litigated in lower-level courts and came just one week after a federal appeals court largely threw out a similar law enacted in Florida last year.
Tuesday’s two-sentence decision emerged from the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket,” which involves cases that are decided without oral arguments, and was unsigned.
But notes naming the four dissenters revealed that the majority comprised Chief Justice John Roberts, liberal Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, and conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
As is typical with emergency rulings, the prevailing justices didn’t explain their reasoning.
But Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative, wrote a nearly six-page dissent in which he said the case “concerns issues of great importance that will plainly merit this Court’s review.”
“Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and obtain news,” Alito wrote.
“At issue is a ground-breaking Texas law that addresses the power of dominant social media corporations to shape public discussion of the important issues of the day.”
Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joined in Alito’s dissent. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan dissented separately without saying why.
Content crackdowns became a hot topic in October 2020 when Twitter and Facebook took action against The Post for its exclusive coverage of Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop and again after those companies and others banned then-President Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by his supporters.
The Texas law would apply to any social media platform with more than 50 million active monthly users — including Facebook Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok — from acting to “censor” users based on their “viewpoint.”
It would enable residents of the Lone Star State and anyone who does business there to go to court to have their posts restored and recover any related legal fees — but not collect money damages.
The state attorney general would also be empowered to enforce it.
The law was signed in September by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who at the time said, “There is a dangerous movement by some social media companies to silence conservative ideas and values.”
“This is wrong and we will not allow it in Texas,” he added.
Tech industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association sued to block the law on grounds that it violated the free speech rights of companies to exercise editorial control over the content posted on their websites.
In December, a federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law but that order was stayed earlier this month by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a similar law in May 2021 but most of its provisions were ruled unconstitutional on May 24 by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
A DeSantis spokesperson called that decision “stupefying” and an appeal was being considered.
With Post wires