FederalIssuesJudicialPaxton Files Brief Against Facebook’s Effort to Move ‘Texit’ Censorship Lawsuit to California

In October, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals placed on hold a Texas law passed in 2021 against social media censorship.
January 18, 2023
Attorney General Ken Paxton filed court documents against an effort by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to move a lawsuit filed against it by the Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM) from a state court in Jefferson County to a federal court in California.

The TNM sued Meta in November after the company banned links to its account on Facebook, an action the TNM contends is a violation of House Bill (HB) 20, a state law against social media censorship.

Paxton’s filing does not necessarily mean he supports secession, Texas nationalism, or any related ideology. He is fulfilling his duty under state law to enforce HB 20 in court, which protects the TNM as well as it would any other group.

“Texas takes no view on the merits of this suit or Plaintiffs’ underlying speech. It is instead submitting this amicus brief to ensure that defendant Meta Platforms, Inc. (Facebook) does not undermine HB 20’s protections,” the state wrote.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed the brief on Tuesday in the Beaumont division of the Eastern District of Texas.

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The state also discussed the rationale for HB 20, which was spurred by concern about social media platforms targeting conservatives, skeptics of COVID-19 vaccinations, proponents of election integrity laws, and others.

“Texas passed HB 20 after numerous examples came to light where Facebook and other large social media platforms were shown to discriminate against users based on their users’ viewpoints,” the OAG wrote.

“Texas determined that this behavior rose to the level that it implicated the State’s ‘fundamental interest in protecting the free exchange of ideas and information’ within its borders.”

Daniel Miller, president of the Texas Nationalist Movement and unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2022, expressed gratitude for Paxton’s amicus brief.

“I am grateful that Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed an amicus brief that brings to light many of the issues that the Texas Nationalist Movement has addressed in our lawsuit,” Miller said in a news release. “We hope to have the support of the Attorney General’s office as we work to ensure that Texas is free from censorship and that freedom of speech is abundant in our great state.”

The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the State of Texas and upheld the law in September 2022 after its enforcement was previously blocked by the courts. However, the appeals court later stayed its decision while the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, placing HB 20 back in limbo.

Facebook has a strong incentive to move the case to the federal Ninth Circuit, which would be more receptive to its arguments. Opponents of HB 20 believe it is an unconstitutional requirement for private organizations to be venues for speech they find objectionable.

HB 20 effectively requires social media platforms to be viewpoint-neutral, though it does not prohibit them from enforcing standards against behavior such as harassment or threatening violence.

The Texas Legislature passed HB 20 during the second called session of the 87th Legislature. It was authored primarily by Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), and became entangled in litigation before it took effect in December 2021.

Paxton has defended HB 20 in court since its passage and spoken against social media censorship.

“As your AG, I am committed to battling Big Tech overlords who are determined to silence conservative voices from stating the truth,” Paxton tweeted last spring. “I will continue my efforts in Court to ensure that conservative voices are protected from the existential threat that is Big Tech censorship.”

Disclaimer: The Texan submitted an amicus brief in support of House Bill 20.

A copy of Paxton’s amicus brief can be found below.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."