Tech industry groups are once again pleading with the 5th Circuit to block HB 20, Texas' on-again, off-again social media law, which the court recently allowed to take effect.
In an unopposed motion filed Thursday, the plaintiffs in the ongoing legal battle, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, asked the court to "preserve the status quo" until the Supreme Court has a chance to review the issues raised in the case. The Texas law aims to prohibit online platforms from moderating content on the basis of viewpoint, a limitation that tech companies argue infringes on their First Amendment rights and conflicts with broad authority they have under Section 230 to moderate content.
This is not the first time NetChoice and CCIA have sought to block the law. Earlier this year, the 5th Circuit lifted an injunction on the same law, though its decision on the underlying case between tech groups and the state of Texas was still pending at the time. The tech groups argued that the 5th Circuit's actions would wreak havoc on companies operating in Texas and pushed for the Supreme Court to add the case to its shadow docket and re-institute the block on the law. Weeks later, the Supreme Court obliged, with a majority voting in NetChoice and CCIA's favor.
But the 5th Circuit decision earlier this month put the law back in play. In their motion, NetChoice and CCIA noted that even the three conservative justices who voted to keep the law in effect in May said that HB 20 "concerns issues of great importance that will plainly merit the [Supreme] Court’s review." The plaintiffs are asking the court to block the law from being implemented until the justices have had a chance to conduct that review.
That chance may come sooner rather than later: While the 5th Circuit gave the Texas social media law a green light, the 11th Circuit blocked a similar law in Florida earlier this year. That circuit split has created a rare opportunity for the Supreme Court to decide on issues related to online speech and the First Amendment rights of private platforms once and for all. Earlier this month, Florida filed a petition with the court asking it to take up its case surrounding SB 7072, a law that would limit tech platforms' ability to moderate certain political speech. Now, both sides of the debate are awaiting an answer as to whether they'll have a chance to fight it out in the highest court.
Until the Supreme Court provides that answer, though, NetChoice and CCIA are arguing that the 5th circuit shouldn't allow a disruptive — if not outright disastrous — law for so many businesses to go into effect. "If Supreme Court review was 'plainly merit[ed]' even before this circuit split," the motion reads, "it certainly is now."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that NetChoice and CCIA filed a motion with the Supreme Court. They filed with the 5th Circuit.