The Supreme Court vs. Social Media

The Supreme Court on Tuesday won by blocking social media companies, a Texas law that would have barred major apps, including Facebook and Twitter, from disabling messages based on their opinions.

But the issue could return to court, and at least three judges seem open to considering a question that could fundamentally change social media because we know: whether a site like Facebook has the right to first amend to allow certain content. And not others, or the responsibility to deliver almost anything?

Judges’ interest shows that we are all still looking at how to deal with a handful of social media companies that have a huge influence on public discourse. Few people are happy about this reality, but it is not clear what to do about it.

Let me tell you how we got here:

What the First Amendment says:

The First Amendment prohibits government censorship, but does not apply to decisions made by businesses.

You may not agree with the preferences of Internet companies, but First Amendment scholars have said that Facebook had a constitutional right to suspend Donald Trump’s account. Twitter may order that people not be allowed to spam their followers with a marketing pitch. The government has not interfered in those choices.

Enter Texas. And Florida.

Conservative politicians have long unjustly removed or devalued some conservative views by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media companies. I haven’t seen credible research supporting this view, but many believe it.

In response, Texas law, HB20, signed last year, prohibits large social media companies from censoring people based on “user or other person’s point of view.”

Associations of Internet companies and some constitutional rights groups have said Texas law violates the First Amendment because it allows the state to tell private businesses what kind of speech they can deliver.

Internet companies go a step further, saying that social media apps have the same comprehensive first-aid protection against government interference in “editorial judgments” that apply to news organizations.

Texas countered that Facebook, Twitter and the like do not have such First Amendment Protection as they are like the old telegraph, telephone companies and home internet providers. Further government intervention is allowed for such “normal carriers” as people cannot be prevented from using the necessary means of communication.

A majority of judges said Tuesday that Texas law could not be enforced while the appellate court was going through the system. They did not decide on a bipartisan interpretation of how the First Amendment should apply to 21st century social media.

What happens next:

A federal appeals court recently ruled unconstitutional a Florida law passed last year that sought to restrict the discretion of social media companies on speech. The Supreme Court can ultimately overturn Texas or Florida law and rule on its constitutional merits.

In remarks on Tuesday and in the past, the three judges have expressed openness on social media to consider how the First Amendment should apply or not.

In one case last year, Justice Clarence Thomas introduced the idea of ​​social media having the same responsibilities as normal carriers for not banning speech. And on Tuesday, Thomas and Justice Neil Gorsuch signed a dissenting opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, stating: “It is not at all clear how our current precedents, which precede the age of the Internet, should apply to large social media companies. Alito also wrote that the novel brought by Texas social media law “does not have a definite point of view on legal questions.”

These cases force us to fight the fundamental question of what kind of world we want to live in: are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube so influential in our world that the government should block their decisions, or are they private companies that should have independence. To set their own rules?

Read more about Texas law from our colleagues at DealBook,

In this New York Times guest essay Since December, Jamil Jaffer and Scott Wilkins of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University Writes that social media platforms are neither like newspapers nor like normal carriers.

  • Online Trail of Buffalo Accused Mass Killer: My colleagues Steven Lee Myers and Stuart A. The continued proliferation of racist and violent content online “demonstrates the limitations of efforts by companies such as Twitter and Google to control posts, images and videos that promote extremism and violence,” Thompson wrote.

  • Bring back this feature from the 1990s: Older AOL Instant Messenger lets people set up “remote messages” that discourage people from starting a conversation if you don’t want to be bothered. Lauren Goode, author of The Wired, says it’s a simple but powerful feature to free people from distractions and they miss it.

  • Lighting Assistant came to the restaurant for the best video recording of the appetizers. This eater essay is a thoughtful reflection of how TikTok is changing the way we think about restaurants, both helpful and harmful.

Oregon Zoo and some Girl Scouts Helped release endangered lake turtles into the wild. The Turtles and Girl Scouts seemed to have exploded.

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