Supreme Court to decide if states’ social media laws violate Constitution

September 29, 2023

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether state laws regulating social media platforms violate the Constitution. 

The Justices agreed to review legislation enacted by Republican-led state legislatures and signed into law by Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas. 

The decision came three days before the Supreme Court was set to begin its 2023-2024 term. 

Last term, the Justices ruled in favor of internet giants Twitter (now “X”) and Google, blocking two lawsuits under the Anti-Terrorism Act that alleged the internet sites’ content had helped terrorists in their bad acts.

In the case Twitter v Taamneh, the Court ruled that the “Plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to establish that these defendants aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the relevant attack,” in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas.

That case arose out of Gonzalez v Google, in which U.S. citizen Nohemi Gonzalez was killed during a terrorist attack in Paris in 2015. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack by by issuing a written statement and releasing a (Google-owned) YouTube video.

The new case in the upcoming Supreme Court term stems from conflicting rulings by two appeals courts, one of which upheld the Texas law while the other struck down Florida’s legislation.

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court Justices kept the Texas law on hold while litigation over it continues.

The Justices’ conclusions in the initial Texas decision was a mix of their political ideologies. Chief Justice John Roberts and fellow conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joined with liberals Sonia Sotomayor and then-Justice Stephen Breyer in voting to grant the emergency request from two technology industry groups that challenged the law.

Conversely, liberal Justice Elena Kagan joined conservatives Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch in a dissent that would have allowed the law to remain in effect.

GOP-elected officials in several states that have similar measures are in support of the Texas and Florida laws, having sought to portray social media companies as generally liberal in their ideologies and hostile to ideas from the political right.

The tech sector has warned that the laws would prevent platforms from removing extremism and hate speech.

Also this term, the Justices have agreed they’ll decide whether public officials can block critics from commenting on their social media accounts. That issue had previously arisen in a case involving former President Trump, but that the Justices dismissed when he left the Oval Office in January 2021. 

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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