Supreme Court Will Determine Whether Social Media Is Covered By First Amendment

( — The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases on Monday that could have a significant impact on whether states can control what social media companies can allow on their platforms, CBS News reported.

The cases stem from laws passed in 2021 in Florida and Texas that bar social media platforms from suppressing or removing user content.

While the laws are broadly written, officials in Florida and Texas said they were needed to stop social media platforms from unfairly targeting conservative users for content moderation.

Florida’s SB 7072, which was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in May 2021, prevents social media platforms from suspending or permanently banning any state political candidate. Under the law, a tech company would face up to $250,000 a day in fines.

The Florida law would also enable social media users in the state to sue social media companies for unfairly “de-platforming” them.

The Texas law bars social media companies from blocking, removing, suspending, demonetizing, or in any way denying equal access based on viewpoint discrimination. As with the Florida law, the Texas law would allow users to sue platforms for alleged violations.

The states argue that social media companies should be held to the same standard as any other business that would attempt to discriminate based on viewpoint. Over a dozen Republican attorneys general filed a friend of the court brief in support of Texas and Florida, arguing that social media platforms should be treated as utilities much like telephone networks.

The laws were challenged by two tech groups that claim that by prohibiting content moderation, the laws violated the First Amendment rights of social media platforms.

A lower court blocked enforcement of the Florida law, ruling that it violated the First Amendment. The state appealed, and the lower court ruling was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A lower court blocked some provisions of the Texas law, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction, ruling that Texas was not violating the First Amendment by regulating content moderation.

The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its ruling on the two cases in the summer.

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