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The Supreme Court is about to decide the future of online speech

The Verge: “Social media companies have long made their own rules about the content they allow on their sites. But a pair of cases set to be argued before the Supreme Court on Monday will test the limits of that freedom, examining whether they can be legally required to host users’ speech. The cases, Moody v. NetChoice and NetChoice v. Paxton, deal with the constitutionality of laws created in Florida and Texas, respectively. Though there are some differences between the two laws, both essentially limit the ability of large online platforms to curate or ban content on their sites, seeking to fight what lawmakers claim are rules that suppress conservative speech. This fight has reached the Supreme Court level in part because an appeals court in Florida declared that state’s version of the law unconstitutional, while a separate appeals court allowed the Texas law to stand, creating a legal rift. The laws’ opponents warn that a ruling for the states could force social media companies to carry “lawful but awful” speech like Nazi rhetoric or medical misinformation, which would likely repel a wide swath of users. Rather than offend users, critics argue, platforms may choose to block whole categories of discussion — around topics like race — to avoid legal blowback.  It’s not just big social media platforms that are concerned about the effects of the laws. The nonprofit that runs Wikipedia and individual Reddit moderators have worried that they might need to fundamentally change how they operate or face new legal threats. More traditional publishers have warned that a ruling in the states’ favor could undercut their First Amendment rights as well. But even some opponents of the laws fear that a broad ruling for NetChoice could hobble any future attempts to regulate a powerful industry. These cases are about the future of public discourse online,” says Scott Wilkens, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, “and the extent to which that public discourse serves democracy.”

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