How the Supreme Court could soon change free speech on the internet

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This year, the U.S. justice system, including the Supreme Court, will take on cases that will help determine the bounds of free expression on the internet in ways that could force the hand of Musk and other platform owners who determine what messages get distributed widely.

The boundaries they will consider include the extent of platforms’ responsibility to remove terrorist content and prevent their algorithms from promoting it, whether social media sites can take down messaging on the basis of viewpoint and whether the government can impose online safety standards that some civil society groups fear could lead to important resources and messages being stifled to avoid legal liability.

“The question of free speech is always more complicated than it looks,” said David Brody, managing attorney of the Digital Justice Initiative at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. “There’s a freedom to speak freely. But there’s also the freedom to be free from harassment, to be free from discrimination.”

Brody said whenever the parameters of content moderation get tweaked, people need to consider “whose speech gets silenced when that dial gets turned? Whose speech gets silenced because they are too fearful to speak out in the new environment that is created?”