Supreme Court Sends Internet Free Speech Cases Back to Lower Courts

The Supreme Court recently delivered its verdict on two internet-related free speech cases, Moody v. NetChoice and NetChoice v. Paxton. These cases centered around content moderation laws in Florida and Texas, which were aimed at limiting social media sites’ control over user content. Critics alleged that large tech companies were biased against conservative viewpoints, leading to these legislations. However, the tech industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association challenged these laws in court.

The appeals courts in the respective states failed to reach a consensus, leading the cases to be presented to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that both suits did not adequately address the First Amendment challenges posed by such cases. Consequently, the cases were sent back to lower courts for reconsideration.

In the Court’s majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan stated that when social media platforms decide which content to display or how to order and organize it, they are making expressive choices, which receive First Amendment protection.

Reacting to the decision, Marc Epstein, Senior Counsel with the Digital Justice Initiative at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated that the Committee was pleased with the decision as it allows social media companies to continue removing hate and disinformation from their platforms. Epstein also emphasized the need for social media platforms to improve their content moderation efforts and acknowledged that the First Amendment does not provide a blanket protection for harmful actions taken by these platforms.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had sided with President Biden’s administration in a case regarding social media posts about COVID-19 and election security. By a 6-3 vote, the Court ruled that conservative states and social media users lacked the legal standing to sue the federal government over its influence on the censorship policies of social media giants. The plaintiffs alleged that the Biden administration had unconstitutionally suppressed conservative viewpoints. However, Justice Amy Coney Barrett asserted that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate specific instances of content moderation that caused them identifiable harm.

.st1{display:none}See more