Washington, DC – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed an amicus brief in Netchoice, LLC v. Paxton and Moody v. NetChoice, LLC, the Supreme Court cases concerning Texas House Bill 20 and Florida Senate Bill 7072, laws that would vitiate the ability of online businesses to remove content spewing hate and disinformation on their platforms. The Lawyers’ Committee argues these laws violate the First Amendment and that online businesses need to be able to limit racist harassment and disinformation that disproportionately harm Black people and communities of color.
In recent years, social media platforms have become powerful tools for communication and information sharing. The brief argues that online platforms have a role to play in ensuring that platforms are not breeding grounds for hateful content that adversely harms communities of color.
The case reflects tensions that have emerged between those who advocate the need for responsible content moderation and those who distort free speech platitudes to resist it. In its brief, the Lawyers’ Committee pushes back against these claims and makes the case that social media companies have the right and responsibility to self-regulate content that promotes hate speech, harassment, and harmful disinformation. At the same time, states retain the ability to regulate social media platforms in other ways, including with laws prohibiting discrimination and deceptive practices or protecting data privacy.
“It is imperative that we recognize the direct threat posed to Black people and other people of color by unbridled hate speech and misinformation on social media platforms,” said David Brody, managing attorney of the Digital Justice Initiative with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Allowing these platforms to moderate content is not an infringement on free speech; rather, it is a necessary step to safeguard the rights and well-being of people historically targeted by hostile, race-based harassment. Hate and misinformation impair the free expression and civic participation of the targeted groups.”
The Lawyers’ Committee is also intending to file another Supreme Court amicus brief soon in Murthy v. Missouri, defending the government’s ability to work with social media platforms and civil society to combat election disinformation. The Lawyers’ Committee filed a similar brief in the lower court.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that Black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.