Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision Upholding Texas Social Media Law Jeopardizes Free Expression

Ruling could have disastrous effects if not immediately reversed.

Today, in NetChoice v. Paxton, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas law that would bar social media companies from engaging in many forms of content moderation. Public Knowledge condemns this panel’s ruling. The decision follows the Supreme Court’s May ruling ordering the Fifth Circuit to prevent the law from going into effect, and an Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finding that a similar social media law in Florida violates the First Amendment. 

Public Knowledge has argued that ordering platforms, as opposed to telecommunications companies, to be common carriers would be bad public policy as well as unconstitutional. 

The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:

“The Fifth Circuit has ignored decades of First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent – and acted contrary to recent Supreme Court orders – to reach a seemingly politically motivated decision that will have disastrous effects if it is not immediately reversed.

“Among other things, the implication of this panel’s opinion is that television stations and newspapers can be ordered by the state to carry political propaganda, or that it might be illegal for your email provider to filter spam or to allow you to block unwanted political ads. Its attempts to dismiss these concerns make no sense. More immediately, platforms will lose the ability to limit the spread of hate speech, abuse, and misinformation, and users will not be able to choose what they see online.

“Platforms need to be regulated in many respects, but rulings like this set back serious attempts to protect consumers online.”

View our recent blog post, “What Makes a Common Carrier, and What Doesn’t,” to learn why ordering platforms to be common carriers makes for bad public policy.

Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at or 405-249-9435.