Bogus Fears of Censorship Could Spell the End of Content Moderation

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Hi, everyone. Glad to hear from Joe Biden that the pandemic is over. But who’s going to tell the coronavirus?

The Plain View

The linguist George Lakoff is famous for his theory of “framing” in political speech. The words people use to describe an issue can end a debate even before the speechifying begins. “Framing is about getting language that fits your worldview,” he once explained. “The ideas are primary and the language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas.”

I thought about Lakoff when I read the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s ruling regarding the Texas legislature’s House Bill 20, signed by Governor Greg Abbott last year. The law limits how technology platforms can moderate speech, essentially banning companies like Meta, Google, and Twitter from removing or de-ranking content on the basis of the viewpoint it expresses. Two industry associations, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), challenged the law, as they had similar legislation in Florida. A lot of complicated appeals and challenges ensued. In Florida, the courts blocked the law, and the state government is appealing to the Supreme Court. But after an appeals court ruling in Texas stopped the law, a higher court, the US Fifth Circuit, intervened, saying that it was constitutional and could be enforced. Then the Supreme Court stepped in. It prevented the law from taking effect, and asked the Fifth Circuit to reconsider its earlier decision.

The Fifth Circuit didn’t budge. Writing for a two-to-one majority last week, Judge

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