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Luján takes on Texas, Florida laws that he says violates First Amendment

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Luján takes on Texas, Florida laws that he says violates First Amendment

Dec 11, 2023 | 6:05 am ET
By Gabrielle Porter
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Luján takes on Texas, Florida laws that he says violates First Amendment
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Behind both measures is the hotly disputed argument that social media platforms are using their influence as part of a broad effort to censor and silence conservative voices. (Photo by Gino Gutierrez for Source New Mexico)

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján is wading into the fray on a pair of landmark social media lawsuits that have pitted conservative politicians against platforms like Meta, X and YouTube.

Weighing in on Supreme Court cases involving a pair of laws from Texas and Florida addressing how social media giants regulate content on their platforms, the New Mexico Democrat argues in an amicus brief that, while the measures present themselves as protecting the First Amendment, “these laws themselves violate its protections.

The original Texas law, passed by legislators and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2021, sought to ban major social media companies from censoring users’ posts based on their viewpoints.

The Florida law, meanwhile, allowed the state’s election commission to fine social media companies that kick political candidates off their platform, among other actions. That measure was also passed in 2021 and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Both laws were appealed and, earlier this year, accepted for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Behind both measures is the hotly disputed argument that social media platforms are using their influence as part of a broad effort to censor and silence conservative voices.

In his amicus brief, Luján asserts that the ways social media companies curate what appears on their platforms is part of its own First Amendment right, and that the company’s methods for moderating content constitute “essential editorial tools” that allow them to shape their own branding.

“Content moderation serves an indispensable role for organizations to ensure that their platforms remain viable forums for a diverse range of voices — from those in marginalized populations to those holding minority opinions,” the brief says.

Luján also raised concerns about hate speech and radicalization gaining traction in the absence of content moderation.

“Recent history provides numerous examples of these forms of harmful speech leading to real-world violence,” the filing says.

The brief also asserts that the federal government is responsible for regulating the internet.

“State-by-state regulation is both infeasible and can lead to state laws in conflict with well-established federal legislation,” the filing says. 

Luján’s amicus brief is one of dozens filed Dec. 7 in the two cases, from groups such as the Liberty Justice Center and Reddit, Inc.