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Supreme Court defers social media moderation cases to lower courts

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The top judicial body on Monday eliminated prior judgments on two state statutes designed to block tech giants from prohibiting users over potentially harmful speech. This action extends a discussion over whether Republicans can combat what they perceive as “suppression” by major social platforms.

Justices referred the matter back to subordinate courts for additional examination, contending that previous decisions did not adequately investigate whether the laws on content control would be unconstitutional in all scenarios.

The states of Texas and Florida have ratified laws that GOP legislators argue will prevent tech firms like Facebook’s parent company Meta, X (previously Twitter), and YouTube by Google from stifling right-wing viewpoints. State officials assert the legislation guarantees equitable access for all users to these platforms. The tech corporations, represented by entities such as NetChoice, argue that these laws infringe upon their freedom of expression rights.

Justice Elena Kagan authored the principal opinion, with no judges voicing dissent. Kagan explained that the lower courts previously debated how these laws would impact major social media platforms such as Facebook, neglecting to consider their implications on “other types of websites and apps” like Uber or Etsy.

“Today, we nullify both rulings for reasons unrelated to the constitutional rights affirmed in the First Amendment, as neither Appellate Court adequately deliberated NetChoice’s challenge at face value,” Kagan penned.

Texas and Florida introduced these statutes in 2021 following the ban of former President Donald Trump from Twitter due to provocative statements regarding the 2020 election results and the subsequent Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Trump currently leads as the primary Republican contender in the 2024 presidential election.

The regulations in Texas and Florida were enacted before Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, acquired Twitter for approximately $44 billion in 2022. Musk subsequently permitted Trump to rejoin Twitter in November of that year.

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