Biden administration asks Supreme Court to strike down Texas social media law

The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s decision to uphold a controversial Texas social media law.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote a brief Monday saying conflicting decisions from circuit courts over similar laws in Texas and Florida warrants a Supreme Court review. 

The two laws passed by the GOP-led states aim to prohibit social media companies from banning users based on political views. Those laws would limit companies from being able to moderate content and users, even if they violate the website’s terms and conditions.

Prelogar said the court should reverse the Fifth Circuit court’s decision to uphold the Texas law, arguing that the companies have First Amendment protections to carry out content moderation as they choose. 

“The platforms’ content-moderation activities are protected by the First Amendment, and the content-moderation and individualized-explanation requirements impermissibly burden those protected activities,” she wrote. 

Unlike the Fifth Circuit, the Eleventh Circuit ruled to block Florida’s similar law from taking effect. 

The conflicting opinions set the cases up to be heard by the Supreme Court. Two tech industry groups, the Computer and C0mmunications Association (CCIA) and NetChoice, are leading cases against the laws and have asked the Supreme Court to hear them. 

CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement the group is “glad to see the Solicitor General confirm the importance of the First Amendment issues raised by these state laws.” 

“This is exactly the sort of case we would expect the Supreme Court to take up, because it involves a key Constitutional issue and split appellate court decisions,” Schruers added. 

NetChoice director of litigation Chris Marchese said in a statement the brief “underscores” that both laws are “unconstitutional and that the Court should review our cases.” 

Prelogar stopped short of backing the entirety of the tech industry’s group request, though. She wrote that the court should not consider challenges to provisions of the law that would require tech companies to disclose details of their content moderation rules.

The Eleventh Circuit court let those provisions of Florida’s law stand, as well, and Prelogar wrote that the general-disclosure provisions have “not been the focus of this litigation.” 

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