💻 Big Tech v. Big State GOP
A federal appeals court split over free speech rights on social media platforms means a supreme court decision is now pending. Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a Texas law that prohibits large platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and others from banning or censoring Texans for their content. With their 2-to-1 ruling, Judge Andrew Oldham said, “today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say.”
NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), who represent Alphabet, Meta, Twitter, and others in the case, responded to the 5th Circuit ruling by saying, “'God Bless America' and 'Death to America' are both viewpoints, and it is unwise and unconstitutional for the state of Texas to compel a private business to treat those the same,” notes Reuters. Meanwhile, back in May, Florida's 11th Circuit struck down major portions of a very similar law. The state's attorney general has now filed an appeal that will send the case to the high court and resolve the appeals split.
As Politico writes, Florida AG Ashley Moody's appeal claims the 11th's decision “strips states of their historic power to protect their citizens’ access to information, implicating questions of nationwide importance.”
And the CCIA supports the appeal: “There is consensus that this question — whether states can compel digital services to disseminate content inconsistent with their policies — is one that should be heard by the Supreme Court,” the association's president said. “While Florida’s social media law is a threat to the First Amendment and to democratic principles, we do agree that the case calls for additional review.”
As the two Republican states battle over Big Tech's ability to censor content, California has passed its own bill taking aim at social media giants. According to Politico, California's new law “will force social media companies to adopt safety guidelines for Californians under 18 and publicize their content moderation policies.”
Both Texas and Florida’s bills barring Big Tech from censoring content seem to be a political stunt that’s playing with fire. Unfortunately, the increased politicization of the Supreme Court itself doesn’t predict an easy verdict.