Social Media Moderation Elicits Free Speech Probe

John Lister's picture

The Supreme Court has asked the government for advice over two cases involving social media. The court is reviewing challenges to laws that could effectively ban moderation on sites.

The state laws in Florida and Texas both limit the ability of social media companies to moderate some content, though they would work in different ways.

The Florida law covers online platforms with more than 100 million users. It says companies must publish their moderation rules and apply them consistently to all users. It also says companies cannot ban any user who is an active political candidate for a future election.

The Texas law sets the threshold at 50 million active users over the course of a month. It goes further than the Florida law by outright banning any content moderation that is based on a user's "viewpoint."

Mixed Verdicts In Appeals Courts

Both laws were challenged and wound up in Federal appeals courts. The Florida law was largely rejected, though the requirement to publish moderation rules was upheld. The Texas law was upheld in full. (Source:

Now opponents of both laws have applied for Supreme Court hearings, arguing that the laws breach the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech. Usually such cases involve laws that stop people publishing material. However, the argument in these cases is that forcing a social media company to publish content will also restrict its freedom of speech.

While much of the debate over the laws has centered on practicality, particularly how to define what content counts as a viewpoint, the cases may come down to a bigger legal question. Critics of the laws say they force businesses to publish material against their will. Supporters counter that social media companies have often argued they are platforms rather than publishers.

Supreme Court Waits it Out

At some point the Supreme Court may have to decide which case to hear and how that would set a precedent. For example, the Texas law being judged constitutional would likely mean the Florida law would also have to be allowed in full.

For now the Supreme Court has put both applications on hold and asked the Solicitor General to provide an opinion. She's the primary advocate for the federal government and represents the most Supreme Court cases where one side is "The United States". (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you support these laws? Do you think they will be upheld? Is a legal ban on moderation a restriction of free speech in itself?

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kitekrazy's picture

Isn't it suppose to be the other way around?

matt_2058's picture

I can see this from both perspectives. The company being made to do something against it's will in a way that is not applied to other businesses. And the people who feel they should not be limited in saying what they want.

But this is easily solved by the laws already in place. The company is it's own boss and they do as they please as long as they comply with laws applicable to businesses en masse, be it hazardous waste, transportation, banking, etc. With that, they should have to apply their own policies without favor to one customer over another if both meet the requirements per policy(thin memberships, rewards, etc). And the people who feel the company is keeping them from free speech? No one is stopping you from speaking your mind. Step outside your door and speak all you want. If you want a company to host your speech, you have to comply with that company's policy. You are free to start your own free webpage anytime if it's really about being on the internet.

Just like the stores that have the sign No Shoes, No Shirt, NO SERVICE!

Shoot, Mr Faas has the right to edit this post, delete it, delete my account, block my ip address. It's HIS company/store/page/whatever.
If I didn't like that and want to comment on his articles, then I'd just have to create my own website. He can't stop me from doing that and he's not stopping my right to free speech. LOL

rwells78_13585's picture

Facebook et al want it both ways. They act as modern Town Square for sharing opinions. They asked for a shield against lawsuits claiming no responsibility for libelous comments posted because they aren't the publisher. Yet when they moderate/block comments, they are acting as a publisher.

Can't have it both ways.

best1syn2oil's picture

Such legislation should not be needed, however the collective group think of many media firms is such that they see their role to be activists and not a forum for a full and robust discussion of all issues. Recent events have proven that such firms cannot be trusted not to engage in political discrimination. One could argue that other social media can be developed to give the other side a platform...and this has in fact happened. The problem with this is that everyone becomes isolated in their own thought bubble: Conservatives on these platforms, Liberals on these. This is dangerous to our Republic as we are not exposed to thought that may be different from ours, and the chance to reflect, grow and understand things better is lost. Such a stratification has already occurred with news media sadly. Journalism schools today teach an activist approach as opposed to a dispassionate objectivity. So, now one group gets their news at these outlets, the other at these. Where once news outlets reported factually in proper context while allowing the citizens to form their own conclusions, today a controlling narrative must be spun (propagandized) to maintain or take political control. While there was a time when our entire range of views shared a common value system that provided for intelligent compromise, those times are long gone. Today in general there are two competing views of freedom and the purpose of government. Those views are completely at odds with each other, meaning one side or the other must compromise their core values. This cannot work sadly. It is from this reality that political and cultural wars arise, while allowing the accumulation of power from fomenting racial animosity. There is in fact a simmering Civil War underway. Pray for our Republic.

cloud employee monitoring's picture

This isn't work wright at this moment but possible eventually they'll create normal rules and their's explanation.

Unrecognised's picture

When The People believe birds aren't real, and that antiseptic by mouth will fix Covid, and mothers in compounds are lamenting the dearth of Nazi educational materials available for the home schooling of their kids, well it seems a bit late to fix things. It's bandaid on an arterial wound. You/we need to start earlier with the moderation, with training in ethics, self-moderation and critical thinking.

From here, it looks like a basket case, and I hope you can sufficiently publicly fund a high standard or education for all so that people who are supposed to be self-actualised and self-determining aren't so prone to behaving unconscionably online and in the greater world.