Conservatives say social media platforms like Facebook and X have been squashing their viewpoint for years. Now the Supreme Court will decide just how much leeway the tech giants should have. Here is the full story.
Musk Is Leaking
Back in late 2022, new X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk released some internal documentation he inherited from his predecessor, Jack Dorsey.
Having Second Thoughts
Contained in those notes was an internal debate the higher-ups at then-Twitter had in 2020 about whether they had done the right thing leading into the landmark election that fall.
A Biden Bombshell
That October, the New York Post broke the story about Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop and the bombshells it supposedly contained implicating his father Joe in corruption.
They Trumped Trump
When members of the Trump campaign tried to Tweet about the laptop story, though, Twitter blocked their posts.
Twitter on the Block
Meanwhile, members of the Biden team trolled the site looking for other related Tweets and reporting them.
More blocks by Twitter followed.
Leaning Tower of Social
When he released the internal notes, Musk said they were evidence of the left-leaning bias of social media companies.
Republicans Were Gearing Up
It was music to conservative ears, and added fuel to the fire that Republican lawmakers in Florida and Texas had been building.
Upholding the First Amendment
Both states had passed new laws that would limit social media’s ability to block posts.
Doing so on a widespread, ideological basis is a violation of the First Amendment, supporters say.
Hold on a Minute!
But the laws were immediately challenged in court, and the Supreme Court eventually issued a temporary injunction.
The laws couldn’t be enforced until the lower courts had their say.
Courts Are Split
Well, now the lower courts have had their say, and they came to a split decision.
Depends on Where You Are
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the majority of Florida’s anti-censorship law.
But a New Orleans appeals court upheld the Texas law.
Showdown at High Noon
That set up a showdown between the two sides, with nowhere to go but back up the food chain.
Back Where They Started
So, in late September, the Supreme Court agreed to step in and make the final decision on challenges to the two laws.
Companies Are Too Powerful
Supporters of the Florida and Texas statutes say, as Musk does, that social media companies have too much latitude in arbitrarily blocking content and users.
Conservatives Can’t Get a Word In
Far too often, they say, that amounts to muting voices from the right. They point to the 2021 Twitter ban on former President Donald Trump following the January 6th riots.
Hate Speech Would Thrive
But opponents say the new laws would handcuff the social media giants and open up their platforms to hate speech and fringe groups.
Liberals Not Alone
Many who oppose the laws lean more liberal than conservative, but there are other groups in their corner, too.
Don’t Tell Us What to Do!
Computer & Communications Industry Association president Matt Schruers says, for example, that the government should not be able to tell private companies which content they can and cannot promote.
Bloody Battle Ahead
Now the fight heads back to the Supreme Court, where the earlier injunction turned into a contentious 5-4 battle.
No Clear Answers
As dissenter Samuel Alito said, it’s “not at all obvious how our existing precedents…should apply to large social media companies.”
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Domenico Fornas. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.