Five justices voted to reverse the Fifth Circuit decision: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer.
Those dissenting included Justice Elena Kagan, as well as Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, who wrote a six-page dissenting opinion.
Before the law went into effect, a district court issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from enforcing it. In a 2 to 1 decision in early May, the Fifth Circuit struck down the injunction. The Supreme Court’s action puts the hold back on the law as litigation against it continues at the trial court.
NetChoice, a lobbying firm for major social media companies and the plaintiff in the case, contends that the regulations for more transparency regarding censorship and a prohibition on censoring an individual’s “viewpoint” violate the First Amendment.
The law applies only to major social media platforms that have over 50 million users in the United States.
“Despite Texas’s best efforts to run roughshod over the First Amendment, it came up short in the Supreme Court,” said Chris Marchese, counsel at NetChoice. “HB 20 will once again be enjoined and the case will proceed in the lower courts.”
Supporters of the law contend that the major social media platforms have become the modern equivalent of a “town square” and that the free speech of individuals, rather than the platforms, should be protected.
The merits of the case have yet to be thoroughly debated in court as the case has been caught up in procedural rulings relating to the injunction.
“While I can understand the Court’s apparent desire to delay enforcement of HB20 while the appeal is pending, the preliminary injunction entered by the District Court was itself a significant intrusion on state sovereignty, and Texas should not be required to seek preclearance from the federal courts before its laws go into effect,” wrote Alito.
Disclaimer: The Texan submitted an amicus brief in support of House Bill 20 to the Fifth Circuit.