What protections does the First Amendment give to social media platforms?
The First Amendment to the Constitution was designed by the Founders in order to protect individual liberties like the freedom to exercise religion, free publication of information, and free speech. It supports the principle of limited government by limiting the scope of power our elected officials could have in our daily lives. Today, many questions have arisen concerning how the First Amendment applies to the internet and social media. In 2021, Texas and Florida passed laws that prevent social media companies from removing content from their platforms. The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear arguments concerning the lawsuits that were brought against the states that allege these laws violate the First Amendment.
Have students read the First Amendment and do a quick write about what the amendment says about speech. In their own words, have them share what they think the First Amendment’s free speech protections mean. How are free speech protections relevant in their daily lives? Have students share their answers in small groups or with the class.
Have students read the article on the upcoming Supreme Court case and then answer the following questions.
- Why are tech companies suing to block the Texas and Florida laws?
- Why does the article say this case is so important to people given how information is disseminated in the modern day?
- What constitutional reasons does Solicitor General Prelogar give for explaining why the Texas and California laws should be overturned?
- Do you think the First Amendment should be applied differently to the internet than other platforms given its unique role in our daily lives? Why or why not?
- Some argue that platforms should have the ability to remove hate speech and fake information. Others argue that the best way to counter such posts isn’t to suppress it, but rather to allow people to discourse about it online to ensure that truth is discovered. What do you think?
- Americans have traditionally feared a powerful government suppressing their liberties, which was the reason why the Bill of Rights was created to protect such rights. Do you think we should be equally concerned about a private company becoming very powerful as well? Or are they two entirely different things?
- How do you think the Court should rule in this case? Explain your reasoning.
Our Think the Vote program is designed to give students a platform to engage in civil discourse with their peers on current event topics. This week’s question is: Should Social Media Companies Have the Power to Remove Content From Their Platforms? Be sure to have students submit their answers by November 16th to have a chance to win a gift card and be entered for a chance to win our $1,000 grand prize!
Why is Free Speech Essential to Self-Government?
America's Founders recognized the necessity of vigorous public debate and enshrined the right to speak freely in the Bill of Rights. This component of the Constitution protects a wide range of speech, including speech we might find disagreeable. While the First Amendment's primary purpose was to protect political speech, its protections do have limits. This lesson explores this essential principle of free speech.