On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to decide if two laws crafted by Republicans in Florida and Texas run afoul of the First Amendment because the laws force platforms to explain all their content moderation decisions to users.
Both laws, passed in 2021 after several major platforms banned Donald Trump, seemingly were a way for Republicans to fight back and prevent supposedly liberal-leaning platforms from allegedly censoring conservative viewpoints.
The laws are designed to stop the most popular platforms from inconsistently censoring content by requiring platforms to provide detailed explanations to users whenever their posts are removed or their accounts are banned or “shadowbanned” (deprioritized or restricted from feeds by platforms’ algorithms). The Texas law also requires platforms to provide clear paths to timely appeal censored content, and both laws require platforms to publicly disclose standards for when and why they censor users.
NetChoice—a trade group representing companies operating major platforms, including X and Facebook—sued to block the laws, citing First Amendment concerns. According to NetChoice, states are attempting to censor platforms by passing these laws, potentially preventing platforms from making editorial decisions on content that they’re entitled to make.
In a statement provided to Ars, NetChoice litigation director Chris Marchese said that the trade group’s lawsuits were “landmark cases” giving SCOTUS the opportunity to clarify platforms’ “well-established First Amendment right to host, curate, and share content as they see fit.” NetChoice has argued that rather than restricting censorship, Florida and Texas have passed “unconstitutional laws empowering the government to choose what speech appears online.”
“The Internet is a vital platform for free expression, and it must remain free from government censorship,” Marchese said. “We are confident the Court will agree.”
One of NetChoice’s lawsuits resulted in a preliminary injunction blocking parts of Florida’s law—with one court agreeing that the Florida law likely violated the First Amendment.