The Supreme Court will hear cases that could transform social media

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a pair of cases that could fundamentally change conversation on the Internet by defining for the first time what rights social media companies have to control what their users post.

The court's decision, expected by June, will be the most important statement about the scope of the First Amendment in the Internet era, and will have major political and economic implications. A ruling that tech platforms like Facebook, YouTube and TikTok do not have editorial discretion to decide what posts to allow will expose users to a range of viewpoints, but will certainly amplify the ugly aspects of the digital age, including hate speech and misinformation.

That, in turn, could be a blow to the business models of platforms that rely on curation to attract users and advertisers.

  • Supporters of the laws said the laws were an effort to combat so-called Silicon Valley censorship, whereby large social media companies have removed posts expressing conservative views. On January 6, 2021, after the attack on the Capitol, President Donald J. The laws were prompted in part by some sites' decisions to ban Trump.

  • Florida and Texas laws differ in their details. Prohibits sites that permanently block candidates for political office in the state of Florida. “To generalize a bit” Judge Andrew S. Oldham wrote A decision establishing Texas lawFlorida law “prohibits All Censorship Some Speakers,” a “ban from Texas Some Censorship All Speakers” based on the ideas they express.

  • Two trade associations challenging the state laws — NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association — said the actions Judge Oldham called censorship constituted editorial choices that are generally protected by the First Amendment, which prohibits government restrictions on speech based on content and viewpoint.

  • Federal appeals courts in 2022 made conflicting decisions on the constitutionality of the two laws. The Biden administration supports social media companies in both cases, Moody v. Net ChoiceAnd NetChoice v. Paxton.

  • The Supreme Court blocked the Texas law in 2022, while the case moved forward by a 5-to-4 vote. An unusual alliance in discontent. The three most conservative members of the court—Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas, and Neil M. Gorsuch – filed a rebuttal asking that they allow the law to take effect. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan also dissented, but she did not join the dissent and did not give her reasons.

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