Sep 29, 2023 - Technology

Supreme Court to rule on Texas, Florida social media laws

Looking up at the Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court of the United States building seen in Washington D.C. on Sept. 28, 2023. Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Supreme Court said Friday it will decide the fate of controversial Texas and Florida laws restricting social media platforms' freedom to moderate content.

Why it matters: The case is likely to shape the future of online speech — and determine whether Republican-led states' efforts to fight what they view as "censorship" by Big Tech will expand or fail.

Driving the news: The Texas and Florida laws at issue before the court aim to bar social media companies from restricting certain types of political posts and accounts.

  • Both states' laws create mechanisms for individual residents to sue large social media companies as well as for the states to bring actions against or penalize the companies.
  • Tech groups have been fighting vehemently against these laws both in court and in the media.
  • Most provisions of both states' laws have been stayed until the courts resolve these challenges.

What they're saying: "Online services have a well-established First Amendment right to host, curate and share content as they see fit," Chris Marchese, litigation director for NetChoice, one of the groups involved, said in a release.

  • "The internet is a vital platform for free expression, and it must remain free from government censorship. We are confident the Court will agree," Marchese said.
  • Texas attorney general Ken Paxton and Florida attorney general Ashley Moody argue social media companies infringe on conservatives' own First Amendment rights by banning certain types of content the companies have deemed as breaking their rules.

The big picture: These cases, NetChoice & CCIA vs. Moody and Netchoice & CCIA vs. Paxton, signify a long-running complaint that social media companies discriminate against conservative speech reaching the nation's highest court.

  • Congress will be watching closely, as it has been trying — and so far failing — to pass its own laws about how social media companies can regulate what people say.
  • The Biden administration had urged the court to take up the case.

What's next: A decision following oral arguments should be handed down by the end of the Supreme Court's next term in spring 2024.

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