Florida asks Supreme Court to decide fight over social media regulation

The attorney general wants to know if states can force platforms to host speech.

Joshua Woods on Unsplash

Florida is calling on the US' highest court to settle the dispute over social media speech regulation. The Washington Post notes the state's attorney general has petitioned the Supreme Court to determine whether or not states are violating First Amendment free speech rights by requiring that social media platforms host speech they would otherwise block, and whether they can require explanations when platforms remove posts.

In making its case, Florida argued that the court needed to address contradictory rulings. While a 5th Circuit of Appeals court upheld a Texas law allowing users to sue social networks for alleged censorship, an 11th Circuit of Appeals court ruled that Florida was violating the First Amendment with key parts of a law preventing internet firms from banning politicians.

The backers of the Florida and Texas laws have argued that the measures are necessary to combat alleged censorship of conservative views on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Legislators have contended that social networks are common carriers, like phone providers, and thus are required to carry all speech that isn't otherwise illegal. The companies, meanwhile, believe laws like these are unconstitutional and would force them to host hate speech, hostile governments' propaganda and spam. They say the constitutional amendment is meant to protect against government censorship, and that private outlets have the right to decide what they host.

It's not clear how the Supreme Court will rule. While conservative judges dominate the legislative body, the court granted an emergency request that put the Texas law on hold before it was upheld in the 5th Circuit last week. The higher court hasn't yet issued a definitive ruling on the matter, and a decision in favor of Florida could also help more liberal-leaning states with their own proposed bills requiring greater transparency for hate speech and threats.