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Federal judge blocks Texas tech censorship law

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

A federal judge struck down a Texas law that sought to restrict social media from censoring individuals based on their political viewpoint on Wednesday.

H.B. 20 was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 9th and was set to take effect on Thursday, according to The Houston Chronicle.

H.B. 20 would prevent social media companies with more than 50 million monthly users from banning individuals based on their political viewpoints. The law also contained consumer protection processes and disclosures for those social media companies that met the requirements for regulation under the law, according to a press release from Gov. Abbott's office.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman wrote in his ruling that the Texas law interferes with the social media companies' First Amendment right to control content disseminated on their platform.

"[I]f the acts of ‘disclosing’ and ‘publishing’ information do not constitute speech, it is hard to imagine what does fall within that category, as distinct from the category of expressive conduct,” Pittman wrote in his ruling.

Pitman further criticized the law citing multiple Supreme Court cases which upheld a social media platform's right to "exercise editorial control" over speakers using the platform.

NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association filed a lawsuit to block the law in September on the grounds of a First Amendment violation on behalf of Google and Twitter, according to the Texas Tribune.

In their lawsuit, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association argued that they should be protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

"Under Section 230(e)(3), a state law is expressly preempted insofar as it purports to restrict good faith editorial discretion.", the suit reads.

NetChoice President and CEO Steve DelBianco celebrated the ruling and called it a "victory for free speech" in a press release Wednesday.

Meanwhile the author of the law, Rep. Briscoe Cain, compared social media companies to phone and cable providers who cannot legally discriminate against customers, according to the Texas Tribune.

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