NEW YORK – The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), in collaboration with five prominent organizations, including Electronic Frontier Foundation, Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Authors Alliance, Fight for The Future, and First Amendment Coalition, have filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down laws in Florida and Texas that empower states to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of social media platforms to curate content, a protection crucial for fostering diverse speech forums that cater to the varied interests, viewpoints, and beliefs of users.
This landmark case marks one of the first instances of direct intervention by state governments to dictate how social media content is moderated. The Supreme Court’s decisions will undoubtedly shape the future landscape of free speech in America, determining whether speech on social media must conform to government rules or remain free from governmental interference.
“As a coalition that represents creators, readers, and audiences who rely on a diverse, vibrant, and free social media ecosystem for art, expression, and knowledge, the National Coalition Against Censorship hopes the Court will reaffirm that government control of media platforms is inherently at odds with an open internet, free expression, and the First Amendment,” said Lee Rowland, Executive Director of National Coalition Against Censorship.
NCAC is profoundly concerned by these laws. Social media content moderation is complex and challenging. But retaliatory laws such as these threaten to violate the First Amendment and broader human rights. While NCAC opposes any government intervention to curtail speech on social media platforms, we strongly believe these companies should align their content moderation policies with free speech principles.
“Users are far better off when publishers make editorial decisions free from government mandates. These laws would force social media sites to publish user posts that are at best, irrelevant, and, at worst, false, abusive, or harassing,” said EFF Civil Liberties Director David Greene stated.
The coalition urges the Supreme Court to send a clear message that the government cannot compel online publishers to provide special treatment to favored speech. While acknowledging the need for improved transparency and self-regulation in content moderation, the coalition emphasizes that government mandates, as proposed by the Texas and Florida laws, are not the solution.
“Woodhull is proud to lend its voice in support of online freedom and against government censorship of social media platforms,” said Ricci Joy Levy, President and CEO at Woodhull Freedom Foundation. “We understand the important freedoms that are at stake in this case and implore the Court to make the correct ruling, consistent with First Amendment jurisprudence.”
The Texas law broadly mandates that online publishers cannot decline to publish speech based on any viewpoint, even if it violates the platform’s rules. This could force sites to carry content that goes against their users’ values. Likewise, Florida’s law requires social media sites to grant special treatment to electoral candidates and journalistic enterprises, undermining regular editorial practices and giving preferential treatment to political candidates. In addition to dictating what speech social media sites must publish, both laws restrict the platforms’ ability to amplify content, use algorithmic ranking, and add commentary to posts.
“Just as the press has the First Amendment right to exercise editorial discretion, social media platforms have the right to curate or moderate content as they choose. The government has no business telling private entities what speech they may or may not host or on what terms,” said David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition.
NCAC and its coalition partners are committed to defending the fundamental principles of free speech and will continue to advocate for the protection of online platforms’ rights to curate content without government interference.