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Supreme Court Hears Challenges To Texas And Florida Social Media Laws That Could Reshape The Internet

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in two cases that could change the way social media companies limit what users can see and post.

The court will address concerns about Texas and Florida laws that prevent social media from “censoring” political candidates or censoring based on a user’s viewpoint. Social media platforms argue that the actions called “censorship” are more like editorial decisions protected by the First Amendment, consistent with the Court’s 1974 ruling that Florida couldn’t require a newspaper to publish responses to editorials.

According to a New York Times report, the Supreme Court’s decision on the two cases could reshape how social media has operated for decades, often relying on its business model of curating content to attract more users.

The first law was passed in Florida in 2021, after former President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. This law would prevent platforms from censoring political candidates.

The second law was passed in Texas in 2022 and prevents 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.” Judge Andrew S. Oldham wrote in a decision upholding the Texas law, the Florida law “prohibits all censorship of some speakers,” while the one from Texas “prohibits some censorship of all speakers” when based on the views they express.

Both laws are being challenged by NetChoice, whose members include Pinterest, Tiktok, X/Twitter, and Meta.

Supporters of the law have said these are an attempt to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship, as many social media platforms have allegedly deleted posts expressing “conservative” views.

But experts have expressed concern about how social media platforms would block content posted by terrorists, violent domestic extremists and other actors under the Texas law. The NetChice lawyer said that if the companies lose, they would likely “eliminate certain areas of speech entirely” in those states – including suicide prevention or pro-Semitic speech to avoid pro-suicide and anti-Semitic content.

According to the New York Times, the court’s justices seemed troubled by both laws, questioning whether they would be constitutional if applied to platforms like X, TikTok, Meta, and Pinterest, but suggesting that they might be constitutional if applied to Uber, Etsy, or Gmail.

The justices also questioned whether the platforms act more like phone companies or newspapers. This is a relevant issue, as states argue that social media should be treated like telephone companies, which can be prevented from suppressing or discriminating against their customers’ speech, or newspapers, which are free to choose what to display on their pages.

Both cases have some special interests, with Donald Trump arguing for no censure, while social media companies are trying to maintain their status quo. The Supreme Court’s decision is expected in June.

Written by RA News staff.


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