Supreme Court Deliberates Over Complex Social Media Laws

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard two major cases that worked their way up the court system about laws in Texas and Florida that impose social media limits within the states.

The laws aim to forbid private social media companies from banning users based on political beliefs, attempting to create a more equal space for discussion online.

The laws were challenged by NetChoice and the Computers & Communications Industry Association which includes massive companies like Facebook’s META, Google, and Snap which owns both TikTok and Snapchat.

“These cases are potentially of enormous, enormous scope,” senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute Scott Wilkens stated. “This will be the first time that the Supreme Court really weighs in on the First Amendment rights of social media platforms, and therefore, the shape and contours of free speech online.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted the importance of these cases himself, noting the previous cases that were ruled on by the Supreme Court “emphasize editorial control as being fundamentally protected by the First Amendment.” A decision to support the laws could change the narrative around that.

Even after the four hours of arguments that took place, much is still to be addressed. Justice Elena Kagan noted how blocking the law may be needed “because of the unconstitutional applications” but entirely snubbing it could lead to problems.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett noted that as the cases did not last very long in the lower courts, the Justices on the Supreme Court “don’t have a lot of briefing” on the case before it was brought to them.

While there appears to be a lean toward blocking the laws for their previously mentioned potential unconstitutionality, the Justices are still working to ensure that social media companies aren’t simply attempting to defend censorship.

Justice Samuel Alito questioned whether the term “content moderation” was just a nice way of disguising censorship on social media platforms.

The decision could potentially have major ramifications ahead of the 2024 presidential election as many are concerned that social media companies can influence the narrative on their sites. The decision is expected to be reached by June.