(WASHINGTON) – The government does not have the right to force private social media companies to carry content they would otherwise not allow on their sites. A pair of laws from Florida and Texas would do just that.

In Moody v. NetChoice, LLC and NetChoice, LLC v. Paxton, the Supreme Court today considered the constitutionality of  a pair of laws from Florida and Texas that restrict social media platforms’ content moderation practices. 

In an amicus brief filed in December, PEN America said the laws are unconstitutional and seek to control public discourse much in the same way that book bans, educational gag orders, and other censorial policies do around the country. 

“These laws strike at the heart of the First Amendment. The state cannot compel private entities to platform speech that favors a government viewpoint or that the companies deem in their editorial judgment to be dangerous or deceptive,” said Hadar Harris, interim Washington director for PEN America. “We are sliding down a slippery slope of government control of public discourse which has gone from book bans to educational gag orders and now overreach on platform regulation. It’s a foundational constitutional right in this country that the state does not get to substitute its viewpoint for that of private actors.” 

After several social media platforms barred President Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, riots, Florida passed legislation prohibiting technology companies from banning a candidate for office from their platforms. Texas passed a law prohibiting platforms from taking down political content. Two tech industry groups are suing to block the laws. The cases before the Court have the potential to reshape public debate online by giving government the power to dictate what content platforms must carry.

As PEN America explains in its amicus brief, the past three years have seen an explosion in state legislatures using government power to suppress speech they disagree with. These laws could have disastrous consequences, paving the way for even more extreme attempts by the government to impose its viewpoint. PEN America calls on the Supreme Court to protect the First Amendment against government overreach in these cases.

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. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057