Supreme Court sidesteps ruling on Florida, Texas social media laws and 1st Amendment

The opinion was authored by Justice Elena Kagan.

The Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped ruling whether Florida and Texas laws limiting how social media companies regulate content violate the First Amendment, sending the issue back to the lower courts for further review.

The opinion was authored by Justice Elena Kagan.

The state measures seek to place limits on how social media giants like Facebook, Instagram and X can manage user accounts and news feeds on their platforms. They were passed amid conservative concerns that the platforms were censoring viewpoints on their site based on politics.

Federal appeals courts divided on the question: one striking down Florida’s law as a violation of the First Amendment, another upholding Texas’ law as permissible government intervention.

The Supreme Court vacated those judgments and sent the cases back because, it found, neither court “conducted a proper analysis of the facial First Amendment challenges to Florida and Texas laws regulating large internet platforms.”

The high court said first the lower courts must analyze the scope of the state laws and then determine if any of the law’s applications stand in conflict with the First Amendment.

“In sum, there is much work to do below on both these cases,” Justice Kagan wrote.

“But that work must be done consistent with the First Amendment, which does not go on leave when social media are involved,” she added.

In another major social media case this term, the justices rejected a challenge to the Biden administration’s communication with companies about misinformation on their platforms about COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

Republican-led states and five individual users had argued the government’s conduct amounted to illegal coercion, while the administration argued their contact with the companies was aimed at protecting national security and public health.

The justices struck down the lawsuit, stating the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue the government because they could not show the administration’s outreach directly resulted in censorship of their views online.

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