NYT Claims Upcoming SCOTUS Decisions Could Overhaul Online Censorship

January 23rd, 2023 8:39 AM

The New York Times revealed the major changes that could come to online censorship if the Supreme Court of the United States decides to reform Section 230.

The Times technology reporter David McCabe analyzed just what is at stake for Big Tech social media companies and their users in a Jan. 19 article. SCOTUS was expected to “discuss [ Jan. 20] whether to hear two cases that challenge laws in Texas and Florida barring online platforms from taking down certain political content.”

In addition, “the court is scheduled to hear a case that questions Section 230 [next month], a 1996 statute that protects the platforms from liability for the content posted by their users.” In McCabe’s estimation, both cases “could eventually alter the hands-off legal position that the United States has largely taken toward online speech.” 

McCabe wrote that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have operated under two “crucial tenets.” That could soon change.

“The first is that the platforms have the power to decide what content to keep online and what to take down, free from government oversight,” McCabe wrote. “The second is that the websites cannot be held legally responsible for most of what their users post online, shielding the companies from lawsuits over libelous speech, extremist content and real-world harm linked to their platforms.”

In a move that contrasts with previous deference to social media platforms, the high court is set to debate whether to hear multiple cases involving the parameters of content moderation.

McCabe’s article also quoted legal experts who described the impact the decisions could have.

“‘It’s a moment when everything might change,’” Daphne Keller, a former lawyer for Google, said according to the article.

The opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas will be especially important. MRC Free Speech America reported last year that he would be a key player in the debate after he argued that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were “sufficiently akin” to “common carriers,” and as such, no one should be denied access to the platforms because of their views.

Thomas wrote in an opinion last year that the Supreme Court has “no choice” but to “address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms."

Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.