Social Media Companies Go To Battle With Texas
If you have a business, it’s likely you have a website. If your website has opinions or viewpoints on it, you may feel that you are safe under the First Amendment to say or write what you want. But a Texas law aimed at social media companies is poised to try to change that.
Texas Fights Against Perceived Censorship
Social media companies like Facebook or Twitter have, on occasion, restricted viewpoints that they consider to be dangerous, or which they feel violate their terms of service. Conservative states have long complained about that, and Texas recently did something about it. The state made it illegal for a social media company to restrict or discriminate against any viewpoints that would target conservative political viewpoints.
The social media companies have countered, saying they have first amendment rights, which can’t be restricted by states–if they want to prohibit what they perceive to be dangerous, obscene, conservative, funny, or any other kind of viewpoint, for any reason, they have a first amendment right to do just that, and a state cannot stop them (the first amendment protects not just what you say, but what you choose not to say).
Texas counters that this is not a constitutional issue; this is a state’s rights issue and that if a state wants to prohibit a company from discriminating against a viewpoint, it can do that.
Texas also claims that although Facebook and Twitter are private companies, they have become so ubiquitous that they are akin to government agencies, or public utilities that are such a part of our society, that they should not be allowed to restrict users free speech any more than a government agency would be able to do.
Companies Have Freedom of Speech Rights
Corporations do have first amendment rights the same way people do; the Supreme Court made that clear many years ago in the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission case, which said that companies are free to support political candidates just the same way that individuals can do, and doing so is an expression of free speech.
Decision Could be Far Reaching
For businesses, this is more than a political issue. When it hears the case and makes a ruling, the court would not only be ruling on the extent of a company’s first amendment right to say or not say what it wants, but also could open a floodgate to a difficult business climate: If Texas can tell Facebook what it can and cannot allow on its site, it could potentially lead to 50 states with 50 different rules on what company websites can and cannot say.
This could lead to a simple act–putting up a business website-too being one fraught with the necessity to understand and comply with 50 different state laws.
Call the West Palm Beach commercial litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today for help you comply with every state law where you do business.