Supreme Court v. Social Media

The Supreme Court handed over the victory to social media companies on Tuesday, by this time, by blocking Texas law banning big apps, including Facebook and Twitter, from posting messages based on the views expressed by them.

But the issue could go back to court, and at least three judges seem open to considering a question that could fundamentally change social media as we know it: Do sites like Facebook have the first edit, allow some content and not others, or spread almost everything? Commitment?

The interest in justice shows that we are all still figuring out how to deal with several social media companies that have a huge impact on public speaking. Few people are happy with this reality, but it is unclear what to do about it.

Let me explain how we got here:

What the First Amendment says:

The first amendment restricts government censorship, but it does not apply to decisions made by businesses.

You may not agree with the choice of Internet companies, but First Amendment scientists have said that Facebook had a constitutional right to suspend Donald Trump’s account. Twitter may announce that people are prohibited from sending spam to their followers through marketing positions. The government did not interfere in this election.

Enter Texas. And Florida.

Conservative politicians have long complained that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media companies unfairly explain or diminish conservative views. I have not seen a credible study that confirms this view, but many believe it.

In response, Texas law HB 20, signed last year, banned major social media companies from censoring people on the basis of “user or other person’s views.”

Internet company associations and some constitutional rights groups say Texas law violated the First Amendment because it allowed the state to tell private businesses what kind of word they could or could not spread.

Internet companies have gone even further, claiming that social media apps have had the same broad first-order protection against government interference in newsroom editing that applies to news organizations.

Texas responded that Facebook, Twitter, and the like do not have the protection of the First Amendment because they resemble older telegraphs, telephone companies, and home Internet providers. More state interference is allowed for such “common carriers” because people can not block the use of basic means of communication.

A majority of judges said Tuesday that Texas law will not take effect until the appeal goes to court. They have not decided on either side’s interpretation of how the first amendment should be disseminated on 21st century social media.

What happens next:

The Federal Court of Appeals recently ruled unconstitutional a Florida law passed last year that similarly sought to limit social media companies’ discretion over speech. The Supreme Court may eventually pass Texas or Florida law and rule on its constitutional entities.

On Tuesday and in previous comments, the three judges openly discussed how the first amendment should be disseminated or not disseminated on social media.

In one case last year, Judge Clarence Thomas came up with the idea that social media has the same responsibility as regular carriers, so as not to restrict speech. On Tuesday, Thomas and Justice Neil Gorsuch signed a dissenting statement by Judge Samuel Alito, stating: “It is not at all clear how our existing precedents, which precede the Internet age, should be extended to large social media companies. Alito also wrote that he “did not formulate a final opinion on the new legal issues” raised by the Texas Social Media Act.

These cases force us to grasp the fundamental question of what kind of world we want to live in: Are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube so influential in our world that governments have to restrain their decisions if there are private companies that need to have freedom. Set your own rules?

Read more about Texas law from our colleagues at DealBook.

In this New York Times guest essay From December, Jamie Jaffer and Scott Wilkens of the Columbia University Knight First Correction Institute Wrote that social media platforms are neither like newspapers nor common operators.


  • Online Trail of Accused Mass Killer in Buffalo: My colleagues Steven Lee Myers and Stuart A. Thompson wrote that the constant spread of racist and violent material on the Internet “reveals the limits of the efforts of companies such as Twitter and Google to modernize posts, images and videos that promote extremism and violence.”

  • Return this feature from the 1990s: The old AOL instant messenger allowed people to set “remote messages” to prevent people from starting a conversation if you did not want to be bothered. Lauren Goode, the writer of Wired, said it was a simple but powerful function to free people from distraction and that she misses it.

  • A lighting assistant came to the restaurant to shoot the optimal video of the appetite. Essay Eater is a thought-provoking reflection on how TikTok changes our minds about restaurants in both beneficial and harmful ways.

Oregon Zoo and a few girl scouts Helped release endangered lake turtles into the wild. The turtles and the girl scouts looked as if they had exploded.


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