On January 8, 2021, Twitter permanently suspended @realDonaldTrump. The decision followed an initial warning to the then-president and conformed to its published standards as defined in its public interest framework. The day before, Meta (then Facebook) restricted President Trump’s ability to post content on Facebook or Instagram. Both companies cited President Trump’s posts praising those who violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 in support of their decisions.
Members of the Texas and Florida legislatures, together with their governors, were seemingly enraged that these sites would silence President Trump’s voice. In response, each immediately passed laws aiming to limit the scope of social media sites. Although substantively different, the Texas and Florida laws are theoretically the same; they both seek to punish social media sites that regulate forms of conservative content that they argue liberal social media sites silence, regardless of whether the posted content violates the site’s published standards.
Shortly after each law’s adoption, two tech advocacy groups, NetChoice and Computer and Communication Industry Association, filed suits in federal district courts challenging the laws as violative of the First Amendment. Each case has made its way through the federal courts on procedural grounds; the Eleventh Circuit upheld a lower court preliminary injunction prohibiting Florida from enforcing the statute until the case is decided on its merits. In contrast, the Fifth Circuit overruled a lower court preliminary injunction. Texas appealed the Fifth Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States, which, by a vote of 5-4, voted to reinstate the injunction. The Supreme Court’s decision made clear that these cases are headed to the Supreme Court on the merits.