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Supreme Court hearing on Content Moderation in Social Media Platforms



Disclaimer : This blog is my simplified understanding of the cases


Today- February 26th, 2024 - is an important day for content moderation on social media platforms and free speech in the US as the Supreme Court is set to hear Moody versus NetChoice and NetChoice versus Paxton.


How did we get here?


The series of events that led to this hearing started in 2021 when Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube barred Donald Trump from their platforms following the Jan 6th attack at the Capitol. Following this, Florida prohibited large internet platforms from banning a candidate for office or a journalistic enterprise from their sites. Florida's brief says that this imposes neutrality provisions, hosting provisions, and disclosure obligations on these large internet platforms.


Texas later passed a law prohibiting platforms from taking down any political content discriminating against any viewpoints. It also asked social media companies to explain when and why they moderate content.


Following this, two Tech industry groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communication Industry Association, sued to block the laws from taking effect.


Two Sides


On one side, proponents of the Texas and Florida rules argue that content-moderation actions of these companies fall outside the protection of the First Amendment because their action is censorship, not speech. Supporters also argue that social media companies are silencing viewpoints they disagree with, which is wrong and dangerous. They also want these platforms to be classified as common carriers - a special class of business that dominates a market provides a public service, and is regulated by the local and state governments.


Conversely, the tech industry groups argue that under the First Amendment, companies have the right to decide about their platforms and that the government shouldn't force them to carry content they don't want to. Supporters argue for moderation since, without any moderation, these platforms are likely to circulate hateful content, such as Neo-Nazi posts or misinformation. These have far-reaching consequences both for the individual and society as a whole.


Conclusion


In conclusion, the Moody versus NetChoice and NetChoice versus Paxton case is significant as it can set a precedent for the future of content moderation on social media platforms in the United States. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court rules on this case and what it means for the tech industry, social media users, and the future of free speech in the digital age.


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