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Supreme Court Orders Review of Social Media Regulation Laws

 |  July 1, 2024

In a significant move on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned two judicial decisions concerning Republican-backed laws in Florida and Texas aimed at limiting the power of social media companies to moderate content. The justices have directed lower appeals courts to reassess their rulings on these 2021 laws, which were designed to regulate the content-moderation practices of major social media platforms.

The tech industry trade groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) challenged the laws, invoking the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which restricts the government’s ability to limit free speech. Members of these groups include prominent tech giants such as Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Alphabet’s Google (owner of YouTube), TikTok, and Snapchat owner Snap.

Lower courts previously issued conflicting decisions: blocking significant portions of Florida’s law while upholding the Texas measure. Due to ongoing litigation, neither law has been enacted. The core issue is whether the First Amendment safeguards the editorial discretion of social media platforms, thereby preventing governments from compelling these companies to publish content against their will. Social media companies argue that editorial discretion is crucial for preventing their platforms from being inundated with spam, bullying, extremism and hate speech.

Many Republicans contend that social media platforms suppress conservative viewpoints under the guise of content moderation, labeling this practice as censorship. Conversely, President Joe Biden’s administration has opposed the laws from Florida and Texas, asserting that these restrictions infringe upon the First Amendment by forcing platforms to display and promote content they find objectionable.

According to Reuters, officials from Florida and Texas argue that the actions taken by these companies in moderating content do not constitute speech and therefore do not fall under First Amendment protections.

Source: Reuters