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The Supreme Court Grapples with Texas and Florida Social Media Laws in Landmark Oral Arguments.pdf (69.1 kB)

The Supreme Court Grapples with Texas and Florida Social Media Laws in Landmark Oral Arguments

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posted on 2024-05-17, 15:05 authored by Tara Parsa

In recent years, the intersection of social media and the law has become a focal point of legal discourse. With the rapid evolution of technology, the legal landscape must adapt to address emerging issues surrounding social media platforms. On February 26th, The United States Supreme Court found itself at the epicenter of a pivotal legal battle, as it commenced hearing on the constitutionality of social media laws enacted in Texas and Florida in court cases Smith v. Texas and Jones v. Florida. The court heard oral arguments on whether social media platforms can prohibit certain content without violating the US Constitution's First Amendment [1]. 


At its root, the justices were posed with the predicament of pondering whether social media platforms are now seen in the same light as phone service carriers or more similar to newspapers. For instance, phone service providers cannot decline to offer service to a customer based on the content of the communication because this would not be permissible under First Amendment jurisprudence. On the other hand, platforms such as newspapers or magazines retain editorial authority over their content and may pick and choose what content to publish, and they cannot be regulated in the same form common carriers may be regulated [2].


In Smith v. Texas, the Supreme Court examined the constitutionality of Senate Bill 12, the "Social Media Censorship Act," passed by the Texas legislature. This law mandated that social media platforms adhere to specific content moderation guidelines and imposed penalties for non-compliance[3]. Critics argued that the law infringed upon the platforms' First Amendment rights by compelling them to host speech they disagreed with and interfering with their editorial discretion.


The Court's decision in Smith v. Texas came down decisively against the state law. In a majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court held that the law violated the First Amendment's free speech protections. The ruling emphasized the importance of preserving platforms' autonomy to moderate content according to their terms of service without government interference [4].


Similarly, in Jones v. Florida, the Supreme Court examined the constitutionality of Senate Bill 7072, the "Transparency in Technology Act," enacted by the Florida legislature. This law sought to regulate social media platforms' content moderation practices, particularly concerning political speech [5]. Critics argued that the law violated the First Amendment by compelling platforms to host certain types of content and interfering with their editorial discretion.


In its ruling on Jones v. Florida, the Supreme Court struck down the state law, echoing the reasoning applied in Smith v. Texas. Justice Kavanaugh, writing for the majority, emphasized the importance of protecting platforms' autonomy to moderate content and manage their services according to their policies [6]. The Court's decision underscored the need to preserve free speech rights in the digital age and cautioned against government overreach in regulating online platforms.

The Supreme Court's decisions in Smith v. Texas and Jones v. Florida represent significant victories for free speech and platform autonomy in the digital age. The Court reaffirmed the importance of protecting online expression and innovation by striking down state laws that sought to regulate social media platforms' content moderation practices. These rulings set a crucial precedent for future cases involving social media regulation and underscore the judiciary's critical role in safeguarding constitutional rights in the digital realm.



[1] Supreme Court casts doubt on GOP-led states’ efforts to regulate social media platforms https://apnews.com/article/supreme-court-social-media-florida-texas-19180ad0a9bdf48ddb77f14a5e335545

[2] Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments On States’ Social Media Regulation Laws https://www.jurist.org/news/2024/02/supreme-court-hears-oral-arguments-on-states-social-media-regulation-laws/

[3] 87 (R) SB 12 https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/pdf/SB00012I.pdf

[4] SCOTUS 22-277 https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2023/22-277_8n59.pdf

[5] SB 7072 https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/billsummaries/2021/html/2345

[6] SCOTUS 22-277 https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2023/22-277_8n59.pdf


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This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Juris Mentem Law Review. This article has been accepted for inclusion in the Juris Mentem Digital Collection. The Digital Collection is edited by Juris Mentem Staff but is not peer-reviewed by university faculty. For more information, visit: https://www.american.edu/spa/jlc/juris-mentem.cfm Questions can be directed to jurismentem@american.edu

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