Will SCOTUS Kill Texas, Florida Free Speech Laws?

September 29th, 2023 4:55 PM

After years of delay, the notoriously risk-averse Supreme Court will finally decide whether states have the right to protect free speech from Big Tech’s authoritarian censors.

In a Friday morning order, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will rule on the constitutionality of Florida and Texas’ online free speech laws. If upheld, the laws would sharply curb the world’s largest social media platforms’ ongoing viewpoint discrimination. Since their 2021 enactment, both statutes have been temporarily blocked while courts weigh the issue.

Both laws were challenged by Big Tech’s political advocacy group, NetChoice. NetChoice argued the First Amendment gave platforms like Google’s YouTube and Meta’s Facebook a constitutional right to censor political speech. Fifth Circuit Judge Andrew Oldham disagreed, remarking that it was “staggering” for “platforms [to] argue that buried somewhere in the person’s enumerated right to free speech lies a corporation’s unenumerated right to muzzle speech.”

In addition, Judge Oldham reminded NetChoice that by claiming sweeping liability protections under Section 230 of the federal code, Big Tech firms insist they are not publishers of the content posted on their platform. Oldham held that this voluntary choice by the platforms to forswear any responsibility in what users upload was a tacit admission that “the Platforms’ censorship is not speech under the First Amendment.”

The Texas law, signed by Governor Greg Abbott (R), classified Section 230-protected social media platforms with over 50 million active users as public accommodations, meaning they could no longer discriminate based on “political viewpoint. The Florida law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis (R), barred Section 230-protected platforms with over 100 million monthly users from deplatforming news organizations. It also made explicit that campaign finance disclosure laws applied to Big Tech election interference.   

In an exclusive interview with MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) — who is defending her state’s pro-free speech law — proclaimed the case “one of the most relevant issues to our daily lives right now.” 

While both state laws would only apply to people in their respective states, NetChoice has admitted that if the Court sides with Moody, Big Tech platforms would almost certainly minimize their censorship operations for all American users.  

The Supreme Court has previously held that “[t]he First Amendment's command that government not impede the freedom of speech does not disable the government from taking steps to ensure that private interests not restrict, through physical control of a critical pathway of communication, the free flow of information and ideas.” 

Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on so-called “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us using CensorTrack’s contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.