Free Speech Battle Moves to Supreme Court

Supreme Court Listens To Key Water Dispute

( – On Monday, the Supreme Court was asked to decide if tech companies can be compelled by the government to edit or moderate their content to appease political groups. Texas and Florida have both passed laws that seek to stop the silencing of conservatives on major social media platforms.

The new Florida law claims to prevent the suppression of information being shared about political candidates and stop candidates from being banned or removed from social media platforms.

In Texas, the law is not clearly defined beyond barring platforms from making editorial decisions based on viewpoint and “user expression”.

Two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), are challenging the new laws. Both groups claim the laws violate the First Amendment by prohibiting the companies from choosing the content they wish to publish.

NetChoice argues that the laws violate the First Amendment by “restricting the editorial discretion of platforms” using a recent Supreme Court ruling that a website designer could not be forced to create content that “violates her values” as an example and claiming that the same principles should apply. Texas and Florida claim their new laws are to regulate business conduct, but not expression.

Supreme Court Justices listened to over four hours of arguments about the laws and their potential to violate free speech. The majority of justices were unconvinced that the laws could be enacted without violating the free speech rights of companies. Chief Justice John Roberts, claims that companies are not bound by the First Amendment and therefore can discriminate against any group they choose. Conservative justice Samuel Alito, at one point, called content moderation a “euphemism for censorship”.

Texas and Florida enacted these laws in 2021 after Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook for openly questioning the 2020 presidential election and the events of January 6th, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

Both laws are on hold while waiting for a ruling from the Supreme Court on whether further litigation will be needed in lower courts to determine if the laws should be blocked.

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