SCOTUS Sends Social Media Cases Back to Lower Courts

SCOTUS Sends Social Media Cases Back to Lower Courts

( – The debate over the application of free speech on social media as a modern form of the town square continues to rage. Texas and Florida, two staunchly conservative states, established laws after January 6, 2021, limiting social media content moderation. Tech trade groups challenged those laws in the courts, and the consolidated legal challenges made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Now, the High Court has returned the cases to lower courts.

On Monday, July 1, the Supreme Court returned two cases to lower courts. The Florida case went to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, while the Texas case returned to the 5th Circuit. In the opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court said that the lower courts hadn’t fully considered how far these two states’ laws could reach. She also indicated that social media companies themselves have a right to decide what they want to allow on their platforms without government intrusion.

Kagan noted that the question in these cases was “whether a law’s unconstitutional applications are substantial compared to its constitutional ones.” To make that determination, she said it was necessary to examine all possible applications of a statute to decide which met the criteria as constitutional and compare them with those that might run afoul of the Constitution, something neither Appellate court did. She said the current decisions were too broad as they stood. She sent the cases back to the lower courts for them to construct more precise judgments.

Now, the two lower courts must carry out that action and then make decisions. In the meantime, the two states’ laws on censoring social media remain blocked.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion, noting that the courts didn’t know enough about how the firms censored data to issue a decision. He believed the firms held some responsibility because they had not disclosed how their algorithms worked.

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