WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court asked the Biden administration on Monday for its views on whether the Constitution allows Florida and Texas to prevent large social media companies from deleting posts based on the opinions they express.
The practical effect of this decision has been to postpone for at least several months the decision whether to hear two major First Amendment challenges to state laws. If the court does eventually grant a review, as seems likely, it will hear arguments in October at the earliest and likely won’t issue a decision until next year.
Both state laws were largely the product of conservative frustration. Supporters of the laws said the measures were necessary to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship. In particular, they opposed the decisions of certain sites to ban the president Asset after the attack on the United States Capitol.
The laws have been challenged by two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which have said the First Amendment prohibits the government from telling private companies if and how to broadcast speech. Florida law imposes fines on major social media platforms that refuse to convey opinions of politicians that go against their standards.
Texas law differs in its details, a judge wrote in a decision confirming it. Florida law “prohibits some censorship of certain speakers,” he wrote, while Texas law “prohibits some censorship of all speakers” when based on the opinions they express. The Texas law applies to sites with more than 50 million monthly active users, including Facebook and Twitter. It doesn’t seem to reach smaller sites that appeal to conservatives, like Truth Social, the law’s challengers told SC. The law also does not cover sites devoted to news, sports, entertainment, etc.
The SC has already had a meeting with Texas law, temporarily stalling it in May as an appeal progressed. The vote was 5 to 4. The three most conservative members of the court – the judges Samuel Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch – filed a dissenting opinion saying they would have left the law in place and that the issues were so significant that the SC should look into them at some point. “At issue is a groundbreaking Texas law that addresses the power of mainstream social media companies to shape public debate,” Justice Alito wrote.

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