The Morning After: Supreme Court rejects rulings on social media moderation

It said lower courts hadn’t properly evaluated the impact on the First Amendment.

Emily Elconin / reuters

Two state laws from Texas and Florida, that could upend the way social media companies handle content moderation are still up in the air. The Supreme Court sent the challenges back to lower courts, which vacates previous rulings. In a 9 - 0 decision in Moody v. NetChoice and NetChoice v. Paxton, the Supreme Court said that earlier rulings in lower courts had not properly evaluated the laws’ impact on the First Amendment. Never heard of NetChoice? It’s an industry group representing Meta, Google, X and other large tech companies. So it’s incredibly well-funded. NetChoice argued that the laws were unconstitutional.

The Texas law, passed in 2021, allows users to sue large social media companies over alleged “censorship” of their political views. The Supreme Court suspended the law in 2022 following a legal challenge. The Florida measure, also passed in 2021, attempted to impose fines on social media companies for banning politicians – that’s also on hold.

Justice Elena Kagan said that lower court rulings in both cases “concentrated” on the issue of “whether a state law can regulate the content-moderation practices used in Facebook’s News Feed (or near equivalents).” However, she writes, “they did not address the full range of activities the laws cover, and measure the constitutional against the unconstitutional applications.” It seems the lower courts need to do their homework.

— Mat Smith

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