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Supreme Court Blocks Texas And Florida’s Efforts To Control Social Media Content

The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily halted efforts in Texas and Florida to control how social media giants like Facebook, TikTok, X, and YouTube manage user content, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The cases have been returned to lower courts following challenges from trade associations representing these companies. The challenge pertained to two laws under the US Constitution’s First Amendment limits on the government’s ability to restrict speech. 

The contested laws, which emerged from conservative complaints about perceived bias against right-leaning viewpoints, were signed by Republican governors after Facebook and Twitter (now X) banned former President Donald Trump following the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Back in 2021, when Gov. Greg Abbott first signed the law, he justified it as a means to protect free speech in what he called the new public square.

Social media platforms “are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely — but there is a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas,” Abbott said. “That is wrong, and we will not allow it in Texas.”

However, trade associations argued that these laws infringed on the platforms’ speech rights. While a federal appeals court invalidated Florida’s law, another upheld Texas’s, though both have been on hold pending Supreme Court review.

“Today, we vacate both decisions for reasons separate from the first amendment merits, because neither court of appeals properly considered the facial nature of NetChoice’s challenge,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan in the Florida case Moody v NetChoice.

NetChoice, an organization representing major social media companies like Pinterest, TikTok, X, and Meta, challenged a Texas law in the case of NetChoice v. Paxton. The Texas law broadly prohibits social media platforms from “censoring on the basis of user viewpoint, user expression, or the ability of a user to receive the expression of others.”

NetChoice contended that this law, along with similar ones, unconstitutionally restricts the companies’ rights to control the content published on their platforms, as first reported by The Guardian.

Lower courts have been divided on the issue, blocking key provisions of Florida’s law while upholding Texas’s. As a result, neither law has taken effect due to ongoing litigation.

The Biden administration supported the challengers arguing that restricting social media platforms’ abilities to moderate content is actually the factor that violates the First Amendment, but urged a narrow ruling to preserve the government’s regulatory powers over competition, data privacy, and consumer protection. Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers advocated for upholding the Florida law.

During arguments in February, some justices compared social media platforms to newspapers with broad free-speech protections, while others like Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas seemed more open to the states’ arguments, raising the idea that companies are seeking constitutional protection for “censoring other speech.”

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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