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SCOTUS social media case grapples with First Amendment: Lawyer


(NewsNation) — As the Supreme Court hears arguments Monday over state laws that could affect how social media platforms regulate content, the main question being asked is who should control the internet, the vice president of one of the companies challenging the legislation said.

“Should it be the American people?” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, told NewsNation’s Nichole Berlie. “Or should it be the government, kind of like what they do in authoritarian regimes?”

NetChoice is one of the tech industry trade groups that, along with the Computer & Communications Industry Association, is fighting against laws in Florida and Texas. Both laws aim to block social media companies from banning users based on their political views, even if their content violates the platforms’ policies, NewsNation partner The Hill reports.

One of the things that makes America so “truly unique” is its protection of the freedom of speech under the First Amendment, Szabo said.

If the Supreme Court decides that websites don’t have First Amendment protections, Szabo added, then any president, regardless of party, could pressure or even censor speech online.

“At the end of the day, we want websites to be in the position, not the government, to decide what is or is not appropriate speech,” Szabo said on “NewsNation Now.” “Because as much as somebody may like who’s sitting in the White House or the governor’s mansion today, it will definitely not be your person in a couple of years, and that very power will be weaponized against you.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, when he first signed his state’s bill into law, said it would protect against “the Silicon Valley elites.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the legislation he OK’d was required to protect free speech in the “new public square.”

However, should the Supreme Court find in favor of Florida and Texas, Szabo said there could be an influx of violent and graphic content on social media sites.

“We’re looking at a firehose, an absolute dumpster fire of truly terrible content, terrorist recruitment … beheading videos — just truly vile content which is protected by the First Amendment, but it’s the very type of stuff that we don’t want to see,” Szabo explained.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.