SCOTUS to rule on censorship issue of some social media


The Supreme Court accepted the case on Friday that could determine whether users can challenge privately-owned social media companies on free speech grounds.

This case is about whether a privately run public access station, not a government owned or controlled, can fire someone for their personal or political views and if that can be considered state censorship.

Supreme Court expert Bryon Henry said the Supreme Court takes only about 70 cases each year, so this subject was important enough for them to tackle.

Normally first amendment censorship is protected against the government. If the government doesn't control the means of communication, or the square, or the forum, then it's not subject to the First Amendment.

But, social media is a whole different beast.

When certain things become open to the public (like malls) they become a quasi-public forum--not government owned, but used for public interaction.

“This case may be the first step in determining whether or not we should treat these open forums like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others as traditional public forums like public parks even though they’re not run by the government. And, if so then they would be subject to the First Amendment,” said Henry.

It might not directly impact social media companies, but will impact general First Amendment principles.

Henry said the vast majority of shadowing of political views, or censoring on social media, is usually against conservatives.

“It seems to be a double standard when it comes to political viewpoints on social media and it seems to almost always cut against the more conservative viewpoint,” said Henry.

He said anything violent gets taken down, unilaterally across party lines.

A federal judge in New York ruled in May that President Trump's Twitter feed is considered akin to a public square and that he is not allowed to block people from following him. A court has found that things happening on Twitter are subject to regulation.

A survey found 85 percent of Republicans believe that social media companies censor speech the companies find objectionable, compared with 62 percent of Democrats. The survey also found that 4 in 10 Americans believe that the companies favor liberal speech, versus just 1 in 10 who believes the companies favor conservative speech.

Over the next few months, the Supreme Court will get full briefs from both parties, on the oral argument docket between now and March 2019. A decision will be made before the last Monday in June (24th), 2019.


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