WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court On Monday, the Biden administration was asked for its opinion on whether Florida or Texas can prevent major social media companies from taking down posts that are based on their views.
The practical effect of the move was to put off a decision on whether to hear two major First Amendment challenges to the states’ laws for at least several months. If the court grants review as it seems probable, then arguments will be heard no later than October. It will not likely issue a ruling until next year.
Both state laws are almost identical but they were not the same. They resulted largely from conservative frustration. The laws’ supporters said the measures were needed to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship. Particularly, they protested against the decision of certain platforms to block President Donald J. Trump’s entry after the attack at the Capitol Jan. 6, 2021.
The laws were challenged by two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which said the First Amendment prohibits the government from telling private companies whether and how to disseminate speech.
Florida law punishes social media sites that don’t allow politicians to express their views.
a statement Governor. Ron DeSantis, an Republican, stated the point of this law was to support conservative viewpoints. “If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable,” He stated.
Texas law is different in details. Judge Andrew S. Oldham wrote it in a decision upholding it. “To generalize just a bit,” He wrote Florida law “prohibits all censorship of some speakers,” The Texas law is applicable. “prohibits some censorship of all speakers” Based on their views.
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Texas’ law covers social media sites with over 50 million monthly active users. This includes YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. It does not appear to reach smaller platforms that appeal to conservatives, like Truth Social and Gettr, the law’s challengers told the Supreme Court.
Websites that focus on news, entertainment or sports are also not protected by law. With the exception of inciting criminal activity, sexual exploitation, and threats to violence, the covered sites cannot remove any posts.
Federal appeals courts came to conflicting conclusions concerning the constitution of these laws.
The U.S. Constitution Commission convened a three-judge unanimous committee in May. Court Appeal to the 11th Circuit largely upheld a preliminary injunction blocking Florida’s law.
“Social media platforms exercise editorial judgment that is inherently expressive,” Judge Kevin C. Newsom I wrote the article for this panel. “When platforms choose to remove users or posts, deprioritize content in viewers’ feeds or search results, or sanction breaches of their community standards, they engage in First Amendment-protected activity.”
A divided panel of three Fifth Circuit judges met in September to decide the case. reversed a lower court’s order The Texas law is being blocked
“We reject the platforms’ attempt to extract a freewheeling censorship right from the Constitution’s free speech guarantee,” Judge Oldham wrote the majority. “The platforms are not newspapers. Their censorship is not speech.”
The Supreme Court This was already an experience with Texas’ law. It was temporarily stopped in May by the Texas Supreme Court while an appeal took place. With 5 votes to 4, an unusual coalition in dissent.
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The court’s three most conservative members — Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch — filed a dissenting opinion saying that they would have left the law in place and that the issues were so novel and significant that the Supreme Court You would need to take them into consideration at one point.
“Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and obtain news,” Justice Alito wrote in disapproval. “At issue is a groundbreaking Texas law that addresses the power of dominant social media corporations to shape public discussion of the important issues of the day.”
Justice Alito also stated that he doubts the assertion that social media companies are protected under the First Amendment as traditional publishers and newspapers.
“It is not at all obvious,” He wrote: “how our existing precedents, which predate the age of the internet, should apply to large social media companies.”
Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, also said she would have let a judge’s injunction against the law stand, though she did not join the dissent and gave no reasons of her own.
The Supreme Court Next month, arguments will be heard in another case that examines what is in many ways the opposite of the Florida/Texas question: whether or not social media platforms can be sued despite the fact that the law shields them from liability for the content posted on their websites. The case, brought by the family of a woman killed in a terrorist attack, argues that YouTube’s algorithm recommended videos inciting violence.
That case, Gonzalez v. Google, No. 21-1333 is about Section 230 in the Communications Decency Act. This 1996 law helped to enable social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The court’s request for the administration’s views in the two new cases — Moody v. NetChoice, No. 232-277. NetChoice v. Paxton, No. 22-555 — probably means that it will rule on the case concerning the 1996 law before it decides whether to hear the new cases.