The US Supreme Court seeks the Biden administration’s views on Florida, Texas social media laws

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked President Joe Biden’s administration to consider whether it should review Republican-backed laws in Texas and Florida that would undermine efforts by major social media companies to block content deemed offensive on their platforms. actions that the states call intolerable. censorship.

The judges are considering taking on two cases challenging the state’s laws — both currently blocked — filed by tech industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association that count Twitter, Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook, and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube as members .

Proponents of the laws have argued that social media platforms have silenced conservative voices, while advocates for judicious use of content restriction have argued for the need to stop misinformation and advocacy for extremist causes.

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Florida is trying to revive its law after a lower court largely ruled against it, while industry groups are appealing a separate lower court upholding Texas law decision, which the Supreme Court had overturned at an earlier stage in the trial. case was blocked.

The cases would test the industry groups’ argument that the freedom of speech enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution protects social media platforms’ right to editorial discretion and prohibits the government from forcing them to publish and distribute content against their will, or disclose internal information. content moderation processes.

The companies have said that without editorial discretion, their websites would be flooded with spam, bullying, extremism and hate speech.

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The Republican states passed their laws in 2021 in response to a view held by many US conservatives and right-wing commentators that big tech companies – known as Big Tech – regularly suppress their views.

These people cite as an example Twitter’s move to permanently suspend then-Republican President Donald Trump from the platform in the wake of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of its supporters, with the company saying “the risk of further inciting violence.”

Florida law requires platforms with at least 100 million users to “host speech they might otherwise prefer not to host” by publicizing censorship rules and applying them “consistently among users”. It also prohibits banning political candidates.

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Texas law prohibits social media companies with at least 50 million monthly active users from “censoring” users based on “point of view”.

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Texas law in 2022, concluding that it “does not chill any speech. To the extent it chills anything, it chills censorship.”

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected most of Florida’s law in 2022, but upheld the legality of provisions requiring websites to make certain disclosures, including content moderation standards and rule changes.

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