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The Supreme Court on Friday said it will decide whether it’s constitutional for Texas and Florida to prevent social media companies from banning users over potentially harmful rhetoric.
The states have both passed legislation that many Republican lawmakers say will stop tech companies including Facebook parent Meta; X, formerly known as Twitter; and Google’s YouTube from stifling conservative opinions.
Texas and Florida argue that the laws ensure all users have equal access to the platforms, while the tech companies, which are represented by groups including NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, say they violate the companies’ free speech rights. Tech companies have historically had control over the type of content that’s published on their platforms, and most apps require users to agree to terms of service.
Lower courts have been divided on how to handle the laws. The Supreme Court’s upcoming nine-month term begins next week, and its ruling on the social media cases will likely come next year.
Texas and Florida introduced the laws in 2021 after former President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter because of inflammatory posts surrounding the results of the 2020 presidential election and the ensuing riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump is now the leading Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential race, and his lawyers filed a brief arguing the Supreme Court should hear and uphold the Florida law.
The Biden administration has also asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether the laws in the two states violate the tech companies’ First Amendment rights. In a filing, the administration argues that the tech companies are protected under the Constitution.
“The platforms’ content-moderation activities are protected by the First Amendment, and the content-moderation and individualized-explanation requirements impermissibly burden those protected activities,” the filing says.