U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to consider laws that block social media from removing certain content and users

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide the constitutionality of laws in Florida and Texas that prevent large social media companies from banning political candidates or restricting content based on viewpoint.

The laws were passed in 2021 based on the allegation that social media companies were restricting the expression of conservative views, SCOTUSblog reports. The Washington Post and Law360 also have coverage.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide two issues. The first is whether restrictions on social media companies’ ability to moderate content violate the platforms’ First Amendment rights. The second is whether the companies’ First Amendment rights are violated when they are required to provide a rationale for their decisions.

Two federal appeals courts have split on whether the laws violate companies’ First Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court got involved in June 2022 when it acted on an emergency request and temporarily blocked the Texas law in a 5-4 vote.

The Texas law generally bans social media companies from restricting posts based on the viewpoint of the speaker. The law also requires social media companies to disclose how they moderate and promote content and to publish reports disclosing how often they restricted content.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans rejected First Amendment objections in September 2022. The case is Netchoice v. Paxton.

The Florida law prevents social media companies from banning political candidates, deprioritizing political messages or censoring content by journalistic enterprises. The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May 2022 that most of the law’s provisions were likely unconstitutional.

The 11th Circuit said the law likely interferes with social media companies’ right to exercise editorial discretion under the First Amendment. The 11th Circuit also blocked part of the law that required platforms to provide a “thorough rationale” for censorship decisions. The case is Moody v. NetChoice.

The U.S. government has urged the Supreme Court to uphold the 11th Amendment decision.

The SCOTUSblog case pages are here and here.

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