(NEW YORK)—PEN America announced today it has filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Moody v. NetChoice. LLC challenging Florida’s S.B. 7072.

In Moody v. NetChoice, LLC and NetChoice, LLC v. Paxton, the Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of a pair of laws from Florida and Texas that restrict social media platforms’ content moderation policies. The free expression and literary group argues the laws are unconstitutional.

In the brief filed Thursday, PEN America, joined by Library Futures, argues that the Texas and Florida laws seek to impose orthodoxy on public discourse much in the same way that book bans, educational gag orders, and other censorial policies do around the country. The brief situates the laws at issue within the broader context of state-level efforts nationwide, which “take various forms, from overtly content-based legislation to executive and administrative action, but all spring from the same unconstitutional impulse to prescribe orthodoxy in the marketplace of ideas, and to punish those who violate that orthodoxy.”

As the brief notes, “the proponents of the Florida and Texas laws make no bones about what their purposes are – they are designed to correct a perceived ‘bias’ in the way large social media platforms treat political speech.” The rhetoric mirrors that of state legislatures around the country that have publicly and repeatedly confirmed that their purpose is to shape the contours of public debate, in an affront to the First Amendment. PEN America has tracked these state legislative efforts through its groundbreaking work on book bans and educational gag orders.

The brief posits that upholding the challenged laws could have disastrous consequences, paving the way for even more extreme attempts to impose ideological orthodoxy and punish disfavored views.

“The fundamental principle underpinning the First Amendment is that the government cannot dictate the terms of public debate. That is precisely what Florida and Texas are trying to do with these laws.” said Nadine Farid Johnson, managing director of PEN America in Washington. “As PEN America has demonstrated through its work on book bans, educational gag orders, and other unconstitutional restrictions on speech, there is a consistent and systematic effort across the country to proscribe disfavored speech and restrict freedom of thought. These challenged laws are part of that broad censorious effort, and likewise, cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

PEN America previously filed an amicus brief in the 11th Circuit along with Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the ACLU, and other free expression organizations in support of Plaintiffs-Appellees.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057