Supreme Court puts Florida and Texas Social Media Laws on hold

The Supreme Court on Monday put a pair of social media laws on hold and sent the cases back to lower courts. The justices unanimously agreed to send that cases back for more analysis, but did so in five separate opinions.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday put two social media laws on hold, sending the Texas and Florida cases back to lower courts for more review. Both laws sought to regulate social media platforms.

Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday put a pair of controversial social media laws on hold, sending the cases to lower courts for further review.

The justices unanimously agreed to return the Texas and Florida cases Moody v. NetChoice and NetChoice v. Paxton to lower courts for analysis, but in doing so, it prompted five separate opinions.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Elena Kagan wrote: “The parties have not briefed the critical issues here, and the record is underdeveloped,” Kagan wrote.

The question before the high court was considered a significant First Amendment case that had the potential to rewrite the rules of road for online free speech.

It all started when former President Trump was kicked off of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

In response, lawmakers in Florida and Texas passed state laws barring social media sites from banning or restricting the reach of political candidates, claiming that conservative voices have been censored by tech companies.

The laws came despite evidence that, often times, the opposite is true, as right-wing commentators have become especially skilled at using social media as a megaphone.

During oral arguments in the case in February, the justices grappled with whether Twitter, now X, and Meta, have created what amounts to a modern-day public square that distinguishes them from other private companies.

Another point of discussion centers on whether social media companies should be considered “common carriers,” like a public utility, such as a telephone company, and therefore should be regulated similarly. For instance, a phone company cannot stop a person from making a call.

The First Amendment prevents the government from interfering in how private companies allow or suppress speech.

And the question before the court was whether the state laws preventing the platforms from doing something like banning Trump again would represent a violation of the First Amendment.

Lawyers for the tech companies say forcing them to allow accounts they think should be banned infringes on their First Amendment rights. Past legal cases have also established that social media sites have a First Amendment right to decide what is and is not allowed to be published on their own platforms.

Silicon Valley has argued that without that discretion, including the ability to suspend or block users, social media sites would be glutted with spam, hate speech and other unsavory content.

The laws in both Texas and Florida allow users to sue platforms over alleged censorship, which is in direct conflict with federal law.

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, technology companies are shielded from lawsuits that could arise from content hosted by platforms. The law also provides tech companies wide latitude in patrolling speech on their sites.

Section 230 has become a bipartisan punching bag. Conservatives argue the law gives platforms a free pass to censor right-wing perspectives, whereas liberals say it allows big social media firms to escape accountability for the rise of hate speech, disinformation and other harmful content.

Source link