Jan. 23 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked President Joe Biden’s administration to weigh whether to review Republican-backed laws in Texas and Florida that would undermine the efforts of big social media companies when Containing objectionable content on their platforms States name improper censorship.
The judges are considering taking up two cases involving challenges to state laws – both currently blocked – by tech industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which include Twitter, Meta Platforms Inc. (META.O) Facebook and Alphabet Inc. submitted YouTube ( GOOGL.O) as members.
Proponents of the laws have argued that social media platforms have silenced conservative voices, while advocates of the judicious use of content restrictions have argued for the need to stop misinformation and advocacy on extremist causes.
Florida is trying to revive its law after a lower court ruled broadly against it, while industry groups are appealing a separate lower court decision upholding the Texas law that the Supreme Court blocked earlier in the case.
The cases would test industry groups’ argument that the free speech guarantee in the First Amendment to the US Constitution protects social media platforms’ right to editorial discretion and prohibits the government from coercing them to publish content against their will publish and distribute or internally disclose content moderation processes.
The companies have said their websites are being inundated with spam, bullying, extremism and hate speech without editorial discretion.
Republican states passed their legislation in 2021 in response to a view articulated by many US conservatives and right-wing commentators that big tech companies — sometimes dubbed Big Tech — routinely suppress their views.
These people cite as an example Twitter’s move to permanently suspend Republican then-President Donald Trump from the platform after a mob of his supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, citing the company “the risk of further incitement.” to violence.”
Florida law requires platforms with at least 100 million users to “host a speech they would otherwise prefer not to host” by disclosing censorship rules and applying them “in a consistent manner among their users.” It also prohibits the banning of political candidates.
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 US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Texas law in 2022, concluding that it “does not chill speech. To the extent that it chills anything, it breaks the censorship.”
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected most of Florida’s laws in 2022 but upheld the legality of provisions requiring websites to make certain disclosures, including content moderation standards and rule changes.
Reporting by Andrew Chung; Edited by Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis
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