Supreme Court postpones showdown over Texas and Florida’s social media laws

Supreme Court postpones showdown over Texas and Florida’s social media laws

Supreme Court postpones showdown over Texas and Florida’s social media laws

The Supreme Court has asked the US Attorney General to file briefs in a series of Internet moderation lawsuits in Texas and Florida, likely causing the court to delay accepting one or both cases. When noted by CNN Reporter Brian Fung this morningthe court requested the briefs in an order list Monday morning, prompting President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice to formulate an official position on internet speech.

The orders concern lawsuits filed by trade organization NetChoice against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, and a counterclaim by Moody against NetChoice. Both states have passed laws making it illegal for major web services to ban or otherwise punish users in many cases, particularly in cases where Republican lawmakers have been characterized as biased against conservative politics. A series of injunctions has put both laws on hold — the Florida rule thanks to a Court of Appeals decision and the Texas rule due to a NetChoice Supreme Court petition, where a dissenting opinion indicated that the Supreme Court considered the matter likely would check.

The Supreme Court is already set to consider two cases that could have a huge impact on internet moderation. In February it will hear Gonzalez vs Google and Twitter against Taamneh, each dealing with the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the US Counter-Terrorism Act. A range of internet services – including Reddit, RobloxMicrosoft, Meta and the Wikimedia Foundation — filed briefs last week supporting Google and encouraging the court not to narrow its definition of Section 230.

Texas and Florida laws could lead to even more far-reaching decisions. State lawmakers have argued that requiring websites to avoid moderating content — including hate speech or misinformation — does not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition on forcing companies to broadcast certain expressions. At least one conservative member of the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas, has pushed for an interpretation of the First Amendment that could allow the statutes to stand.

Biden’s administration is likely to disagree with the current Conservative push to regulate social media moderation. But Biden has suggested vague legal changes that would require companies to take “accountability” for the content on their platforms – which could also put his administration at odds with a laissez-faire approach to internet law.

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