March 22, 2023

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court gave social media companies the victory by temporarily blocking a Texas law that would prohibit big apps, including Facebook and Twitter, from purging messages based on the views they express.

But the question may come back to court, where at least three justices seem willing to consider a question that could fundamentally change social media as we know it: whether sites like Facebook have a First Amendment right to allow certain material without Not other materials, or an obligation to distribute almost anything?

The justices’ interest shows that we’re all still figuring out how to deal with the few social media companies that have had a huge impact on the public conversation. Few are happy with this reality, but it’s not clear how to do it.

Let me list how we got here:

What the First Amendment says:

The First Amendment limits government scrutiny, but does not apply to decisions made by businesses.

You might disagree with the internet companies’ choice, but a First Amendment scholar says Facebook has the constitutional right to suspend Donald Trump’s account. Twitter could make a rule that people are not allowed to spam their followers with marketing promotions. The government has not interfered with these choices.

Enter Texas. And Florida.

Conservative politicians have long complained that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media companies have unfairly removed or downgraded some conservative views. I haven’t seen credible research supporting this view, but many people believe it.

In response, Texas signed the HB 20 law last year, which prohibits large social media companies from censoring people based on “the user’s or others’ opinions.”

The Internet Corporations Association and some constitutional rights groups say the Texas law violates the First Amendment because it allows the state to tell private companies what they can and cannot say.

The internet company went a step further by saying that social media apps have protections as broad as the First Amendment against government interference in the “editorial judgment” that applies to news organizations.

Texas fight back Facebook, Twitter, etc. have no First Amendment protections because they are more like the old telegraph, phone companies and home internet providers. More government intervention on such “public operators” is allowed because people cannot be prevented from using basic communication tools.

On Tuesday, a majority of the justices said the Texas law cannot take effect as the appeal moves through the court system. They did not decide on either side’s interpretation of how the First Amendment should apply to social media in the 21st century.

What happens next:

Federal Court of Appeals recently deemed unconstitutional A Florida law passed last year similarly sought to limit the discretionary power of social media companies over speech. The Supreme Court could eventually adopt Texas or Florida laws and rule on their constitutional merits.

In comments on Tuesday and in the past, the three justices expressed a willingness to consider how the First Amendment should or should not apply to social media.

In a case last year, Justice Clarence Thomas came up with the idea Social media has similar responsibilities to ordinary carriers and does not restrict speech.Thomas and Judge Neil Gorsuch signed a dissenting opinion on Tuesday View Justice Samuel Alito wrote that “it is not obvious how our existing pre-Internet precedents should apply to large social media companies.” The new legal issues raised by Sri Lanka’s social media law have not formed a clear view”.

These cases force us to grapple with a fundamental question about what kind of world we want to live in: Are Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube so influential in our world that governments should limit their decisions, or Are they private companies that should have freedom? Make your own rules?

Learn more about Texas law from colleagues at DealBook.

In this New York Times guest article Jameel Jaffer and Scott Wilkens of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, beginning in December Writes that social media platforms are neither like newspapers nor ordinary carriers.

  • Online Tracking of Alleged Mass Killer in Buffalo: My colleagues Steven Lee Myers and Stuart A. Thompson write that the continued prevalence of racist and violent material online “reveals how companies like Twitter and Google are in There are limits to efforts to moderate posts, images and videos that promote extremism and violence.”

  • Restoring this feature from the 1990s: The old AOL Instant Messenger allowed people to set “away messages,” which prevented people from starting a conversation if you didn’t want to be disturbed.Wired writer Lauren Good said it was a Simple but powerful features to free people from distractions She misses it.

  • A lighting assistant came to the restaurant to make the best video recording of the appetizers. This Eater article is a thoughtful reflection on TikTok Changing the way we think about restaurants in beneficial and harmful ways.

Oregon Zoo and some Girl Scouts Help release endangered pond turtles into the wild. Turtles and Girl Scouts look happy.

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