The dichotomy between blue and red states—essentially California versus Florida and Texas—plays out in many arenas on several specific issues, including immigration and abortion.
The entire country will get a full dose of the ongoing conflict next month when California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat obsessed with building a national image, debates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a declared 2024 Republican candidate for president, on national television.
On the other hand, an ironic distortion of competition has developed as competing states seek to force social media companies, such as X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook, to toe the official line with content that contradicts their very different ideological views.
When it reconvened this month, the US Supreme Court agreed to review laws in Florida and Texas that prohibit social media outlets from banning controversial political speech. The laws were implemented after Facebook and Twitter suspended the accounts of former President Donald Trump.
The Texas law, which is currently on hold, would classify social media companies as common carriers like public utilities and require them to disclose their “standards of moderation” that affect what they are allowed to do. post, and state why they removed the specific behavior.
The law in Florida, similar to the one that was pushed, will prohibit the ban of certain users, such as journalists or politicians, and require social media companies to explain the reason for each instance of content moderation.
In both cases, social media companies say Florida and Texas are trying to control how they edit their platforms in violation of the Constitution’s right to free speech.
“Underneath, the government’may not… tell Twitter or YouTube what videos to post; or tell Facebook or Google what content to favor,’” Scott Keller, a lawyer for internet trade groups, told the court in a petition.
The issues before the Supreme Court are strikingly similar to a case filed in federal court this month by X Corp. v. California, which said a 2022 law also violated its right to free speech.
The law, Assembly Bill 587, also includes standards that social media use to moderate content, requiring them to make more disclosures to the state Department of Justice. The move was initiated by the Anti-Defamation League and is aimed at forcing social media companies to remove what the sponsor deems to be hate speech.
“The line between providing an open forum for productive discourse and allowing the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation is a fine one and depends largely on the structure and practices of the platform,” Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, a Woodland Hills Democrat, said in a statement while his bill was being considered.
X Corp. claims that Gabriel’s law violates the First Amendment because it interferes with social media companies’ constitutionally protected editorial judgments, requires them to post terms that are “dictated by the government,” and coerces them to be removed within the state “considered undesirable or harmful.”
Basically, while Texas and Florida have accused social media of being too eager to censor inflammatory content, California’s law makes it clear they don’t want to.
California, meanwhile, rolled back another censorship law passed last year.
Assembly Bill 2098 threatens doctors to lose their licenses for “unprofessional behavior” if they openly disagree with the official on the nature of COVID-19 or the vaccines used to fight the pandemic.
This year, some language repealing the law was inserted into the omnibus medical licensing measure, Senate Bill 815, which Newsom quietly signed into law. The repeal short-circuited what could have been another legal battle over censorship and the First Amendment and a lesson about legislating without considering the effects on constitutional rights.