Supreme Court Punts On Florida & Texas Social Media Laws, Sends Cases Back To Lower Courts

July 1, 2024   |   Tags:
Supreme Court Punts On Florida & Texas Social Media Laws, Sends Cases Back To Lower Courts

Authored by Matthew Vadum via The Epoch Times,

The Supreme Court on July 1 sent legal challenges to laws in Florida and Texas that regulate how social media platforms moderate content back to lower courts, finding that they failed to carry out proper analyses of the two cases.

The court’s unanimous decision was written by Justice Elena Kagan.

Despite the 9-0 vote on the judgment, not all justices agreed with the reasoning behind it.

This was the first time the nation’s highest court had reviewed state laws that deem social media companies “common carriers,” a status that might allow states to impose utility-style regulations on platforms and forbid them from discriminating against users based on their political viewpoints.

Observers and activists on the left and right had been closely watching the cases.

At stake was the right of individual Americans to freely express themselves online and the right of social media platforms to make editorial decisions about the content they host. These competing rights are both protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Republicans and conservatives were outraged when platforms acted in concert to ban President Donald Trump in January 2021, blocked a potentially election-altering New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s laptop in 2020, and silenced dissenting opinions about the origins of the COVID-19 virus, the treatments for the disease it causes, and the vaccines. They say that social media platforms have become the new town square and that users’ speech, therefore, enjoys constitutional protection.

Democrats and liberals, on the other hand, claim that the platforms don’t do enough to weed out so-called hate speech and alleged misinformation, which they consider to be pressing social problems.

The challenge to the Florida statute is Moody v. NetChoice LLC; the challenge to the Texas law is NetChoice LLC v. Paxton. On Feb. 26, the justices heard nearly four hours of oral arguments.

NetChoice, a coalition of trade associations representing social media companies and e-commerce businesses, sued over a Florida law that makes it a violation for a social media platform to deplatform a political candidate, punishable by a $ 250,000-per-day fine. The law also establishes restrictions on deplatforming other users and requires consistent application of moderation rules. Deplatforming refers to removing or banning a person or group from a social media plaform.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit halted part of the law, and Florida appealed to the Supreme Court. The circuit court struck down part of the Florida statute, finding that “with minor exceptions, the government can’t tell a private person or entity what to say or how to say it.”

Even the “biggest” platforms are “private actors whose rights the First Amendment protects ... [and] their so-called content-moderation decisions constitute protected exercises of editorial judgment.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit took the opposite tack, finding a Texas anti-deplatforming law constitutional and rejecting the “idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”

Both state laws require platforms to explain their content moderation decisions, a mandate the platforms consider to be overly burdensome.

Tyler Durden Mon, 07/01/2024 - 14:40


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