Supreme Court Debates Social Media, Deplatforming

John Lister's picture

The Supreme Court has blocked a Texas law that would have stopped social media companies from banning users based on political views. A 5-4 majority of judges said the law violated the First Amendment.

In this case, the right to free speech in question is not that of individual users, but that of the social media companies. They had argued that they have the right to decide what content does and doesn't appear on their platforms.

The verdict doesn't throw the law out. Instead, it means it cannot take effect until ongoing lawsuits about its measures have been resolved. Because it was an emergency ruling, the judges did not provide an explanation of their decision.

No 'Censorship' Allowed

Under the state law, any social media platform with more than 50 million users would not be allowed to:

censor a user, a user's expression, or a user's ability to receive the expression of another person based on: (1) the viewpoint of the user or another person; (2) the viewpoint represented in the user's expression or another person's expression; or (3) a user's geographic location in this state or any part of this state.

The law defined "censor" as:

to block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression. (Source:

A tech industry group that brought the challenge to the law said that if companies were not allowed to exercise editorial control, "platforms will become havens of the vilest expression imaginable: pro-Nazi speech, hostile foreign government propaganda, pro-terrorist-organization speech, and countless more examples." (Source:

Constitutional Concerns

A similar law in Florida was blocked by the state's appeals court before taking effect. It's now likely both the Texas and Florida laws will go through further court appeals, with one or both winding up in the Supreme Court for a ruling on constitutionality. That would likely decide whether such laws are allowed anywhere in the country.

Ultimately it may come down to an interpretation of how the first amendment applies with the modern tech world. Supporters of the bill argue that social media platforms are so dominant that somebody who is barred from the site or has posts deleted cannot exercise their right to free speech. Opponents say the first amendment only covers laws restricting speech and doesn't guarantee anyone a particular platform.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you support the Texas law? How do you think the first amendment should apply to social media? Does the size of the company concerned make any difference?

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Stuart Berg's picture

Since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elec­tion Commis­sion decided that companies are people, the right to free speech by companies must be the same as for people. In other words, companies must have the right to do whatever they want on their platforms so long as it follows the same rights accorded to individuals.

P.S. IMHO - Citizens United v. Federal Elec­tion Commis­sion is the most damaging decision that the Supreme Court has ever made. It has caused our politicians to be "bought" by companies so that they no longer represent their constituents but the companies instead.

Gurugabe's picture

What is to stop this from spreading beyoned just sociall media? What if any company could influence what you say based on their political view? I would hate to be banned from a restaurant or job because of my polictal views even if I never say anything hateful.

russoule's picture

Gurugabe, unfortunately, that problem is already in existance. Headlines are currently stating various individuals have been "fired" or "demoted" or"released" due to their public political statements. And there have been articles about Washington DC restaurants who have placed signs in their windows that "Republicans can go elsewhere for a meal" or waitresses who have spit into a customers food because they espoused a political viewpoint.

Since there are laws against "public accommedations" refusing "services" or other "forms of bias" based on sex, gender, skin color, race, etc. there should be no problem adding "political viewpoint" to that list. Allow us to sue the business involved.

repete_14444's picture

Hope this means all states and social media will eventually follow.Social media is biased and should not be allowed to force that bias on users.