How The Supreme Court Could Reshape Free Speech Online

How The Supreme Court Could Reshape Free Speech Online

Authored by Matthew Vadum via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A looming battle at the Supreme Court may determine how social media companies moderate content. The nation’s highest court will hear challenges to laws in Florida and Texas that regulate social media content moderation.

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock, Unsplash)

Observers and activists on the left and right are watching the cases.

At stake is the right of individual Americans to freely express themselves online and the right of social media platforms to make editorial decisions about the content they host. Both rights are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Republicans and conservatives were outraged when platforms acted in concert to ban President Donald Trump in January 2021, blocked a potentially election-altering New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s laptop on 2020, and silenced dissenting opinions about the origins of the COVID-19 virus, the treatments for the disease it causes, and the vaccines.

Steven Allen, a distinguished senior fellow at Capital Research Center, a watchdog group, said conservatives have long complained about their treatment on social media platforms.

Imagine if you had a system analogous to what Facebook does, where if you say something on the telephone to someone that Facebook doesn’t like, or the phone company doesn’t like, and then they interrupt your call to say, ‘you know, experts disagree with that,’ … and then they wouldn’t let you continue to say what you wanted to say,” Mr. Allen said.

“People would be, of course, outraged.”

Facebook shouldn’t be allowed “to pick the ones it doesn’t like,” he told The Epoch Times.

Democrats and liberals, on the other hand, claim the platforms don’t do enough to weed out so-called hate speech and alleged misinformation, which they consider to be pressing social problems.

Moderators at the social media site Reddit filed a brief saying if the laws were upheld, the site would no longer be able to take down content threatening, for example, Supreme Court justices.

They provided a screen grab of a news article headline reading “Supreme Court’s John Roberts says judicial system ‘cannot and should not live in fear.’”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan listen as President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 7, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A person commented, saying, “We’ve got the guillotine, you’d better run.”

Responding to another article about the court, a user wrote, “Promoting violence is the only rational response, which is why the authorities don’t want you to do it.”

Two pro-gun control groups that filed briefs with the Supreme Court argue that social media companies must be allowed to combat hate speech, which they say contributes to “real-world gun violence.”

Douglas Letter, chief legal officer for the Brady Center for Prevent Gun Violence, said in the press release accompanying the brief that often “the perpetrators of mass shootings were radicalized online.”

These online experiences are formative in germinating these deadly acts,” Mr. Letter said. “The Supreme Court must understand the deadly relationship between online content and real-world tragedy.”

Florida, Texas Laws Challenged

NetChoice, a coalition of trade associations representing social media companies and e-commerce businesses, challenged a Florida law that makes it a violation for a social media platform to deplatform a political candidate, punishable by a $250,000 per day fine.

The law also establishes restrictions on deplatforming other users and requires consistent application of moderation rules.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit halted part of the law and Florida appealed to the Supreme Court.

When signing the law in 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said it ensures Floridians “are guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to police officers in the Staten Island borough of New York City on Feb. 20, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in Cuba and Venezuela,” Mr. DeSantis said. “If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”

President Trump filed a brief with the Supreme Court in October 2022 as a private citizen, urging the court to hear the Florida case.

Recent experience has fostered a widespread and growing concern that behemoth social media platforms are using their power to suppress political opposition,” his brief stated.

“This concern is heightened because platforms often shroud decisions to exclude certain users and viewpoints in secrecy, giving no meaningful explanation as to why certain users are excluded while others posting equivalent content are tolerated.”

A woman holds a ‘Save the Net’ protest sign during a demonstration against the proposed repeal of net neutrality outside the Federal Communications Commission headquarters in Washington on Dec. 13, 2017. (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images)

Ohio, Arizona, Missouri, Texas, and 12 other states argued in a court brief that the internet is the modern-day public square and that social media platforms engaging in censorship “undermine the free exchange of ideas that free speech protections exist to facilitate.”

Read more here…

Tyler Durden
Fri, 12/15/2023 – 18:20

 

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