1 of 2 | The U.S. Supreme Court Friday agreed to hear a social media First Amendment case involving Texas and Florida laws that ban social media companies from banning speech they deem objectionable. Photo by Eric Lee/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday chose to take a case on whether Florida and Texas laws that ban social media companies from removing content violates the First Amendment protections of the companies to be free of government compelling speech.
It sets the stage for a potentially landmark social media First Amendment ruling on what limits, if any, companies have in moderating the kind of speech allowed on their platforms.
Tech groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association challenged the Texas and Florida laws as unconstitutional because they say the laws compel private speech.
"Online services have a well-established First Amendment right to host, curate and share content as they see fit," NetChoice Litigation Director Chris Marchese said in a statement. "The Internet is a vital platform for free expression, and it must remain free from government censorship. We are confident the court will agree."
The case arises from laws in Texas and Florida designed to stop social media companies from barring former President Donald Trump as some of them did after the Jan. 6, 2021, pro-Trump mob's violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"It is high time that the Supreme Court resolves whether governments can force websites to publish dangerous content. Telling private websites they must give equal treatment to extremist hate isn't just unwise, it is unconstitutional, and we look forward to demonstrating that to the court," CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement.
He added that for 200 years courts have upheld First Amendment protections against government attempts to compel private speech.
At issue is the power of government to tell private companies what they can and can't do when it comes to political speech on platforms that are privately owned.
The First Amendment prohibits government from banning free speech but private companies have been largely free to govern the type of speech they allow on their platforms.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said social media companies infringe on right-wing First Amendment rights by barring certain content for breaking company content moderation rules.
In May, the Supreme Court declined to rule on a law that protects Internet companies form lawsuits based on content posted by social media platform users.
The case in question then involved allegations that YouTube was liable for suggesting videos that promoted militant Islam.