Adam Liptak of The New York Times reports that the Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether Florida and Texas may prohibit large social media companies from removing posts based on the views the posts express, setting the stage for a major ruling on how the First Amendment applies to powerful tech platforms.
Trade groups like NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association oppose the laws, arguing they violate First Amendment rights by requiring private companies to carry speech they may not agree with. These laws have faced contrasting rulings in federal appeals courts: one against Florida’s law and another in favor of Texas’s, leading to the Supreme Court’s decision to step in.
Florida and Texas have taken a slightly different legal approaches. While Florida’s law aims to stop all censorship of specific speakers, Texas focuses on restricting some level of censorship across all speakers, depending on the viewpoints they express.
When I began writing and networking on the net, twenty five years ago, I liked a couple concepts. One being that if third parties wrote something on my site/platform I was not liabile for any defamation claims by a third party arising out of that content.
The second was that social networking and publishing platforms were free to regulate what was published or said. It was our house, we get to decide what’s said and by whom.
Things have changed. Platforms have changed, they represent our town square, a place for public dialogue. I can understand where Texas and Florida are coming from, even if I am not a fan of their views.
Where’s this going to end up? There’s got to be some self regulation of what is posted by the tech companies. One can only imagine how offensive posts would be otherwise.
These platforms also run on advertising revenue. Run offensive posts on the platforms, you’ll lose the advertisers. They’re not going to want to be seen as supporting offensive postings.
And beyond the First Ammendment rights of those posting items, there’s also the First Ammendment rights of the social media platforms.
“When a social-media platform selects, edits and arranges third-party speech for presentation to the public, it engages in activity protected by the First Amendment,” Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote for the administration, adding that “the act of culling and curating the content that users see is inherently expressive, even if the speech that is collected is almost wholly provided by users.”
For legal bloggers, who should be championing free speech, we now have competing “free speakers.”
I am in favor of the platforms, they get to decide what’s said at their home.