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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Chief Justice John Roberts Is to Blame for the Supreme Court’s Extremism

Chief Justice John Roberts Is to Blame for the Supreme Court’s Extremism

Cases like this new one, FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate, don’t get much attention because they seem esoteric and technical. But so many of the more infamous legacies of the Roberts Court — crushing workers, rescinding reproductive rights, shielding big business from accountability, restricting voting rights, eviscerating gun control, complicating the fight against climate — can be traced back to its campaign finance rulings, which equate liberty with corruption.

That Roberts doctrine has given oligarchs, corporations, and their front groups a First Amendment right to bankroll political campaigns and now — thanks to the Cruz case — directly funnel cash to politicians’ personal bank accounts. The return on such investments has been all the right-wing laws, obstructions, and judicial edicts that have spewed forth from Washington over the last decade.

Since Roberts was confirmed in 2005 with bipartisan support, corporate media has typically portrayed him as a thoughtful moderate, to the point where polls have shown a majority of Democrats like him. The media has continued venerating Roberts as an earnest victim of the court’s hard-right turn rather than a perpetrator — even after he voted to uphold the extreme Mississippi law banning most abortions at fifteen weeks, including in cases of rape or incest.

Left out of this hagiography is the story of Roberts as the bag man behind the curtain — the mastermind engineering the entire superstructure undergirding the court’s extremism.

No matter the controversy of the day, you cannot really understand what’s going on in politics unless you first understand Roberts’s campaign that constructed an entire legal architecture of corruption — allowing moneyed interests to buy the presidency, Congress, and the courts.

Roberts’s plot crescendoed with the Cruz case, but that recent decision was part of a much larger twelve-year crusade with a singular objective: creating a government of, by, and for the rich.

“Does Not Mean That These Officials Are Corrupt”

Officially, the United States gets decent marks on anti-corruption indices in comparison to other countries. But that’s because while there is plenty of extralegal graft in the developing world, America made corruption legal by enshrining the right to buy lawmakers and legislation.

This is the real American exceptionalism — and it started with the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision equating money with speech. That ruling created the special class of “issue ads” that front groups still swamp the airwaves with today. One group operating in this space is the conservative dark money network led by Leonard Leo, former president Donald Trump’s judicial adviser, that built the Supreme Court’s six to three conservative supermajority.

However, the normalization of corruption did not accelerate until the court was taken over by Roberts, who previously represented the US Chamber of Commerce — the organization that converts corporate money into government policy.

Under Roberts’s leadership, the court has issued four landmark rulings declaring that the purchase of “influence and access embody a central feature of democracy” (that’s a direct quote from the court).

It started with 2010’s Citizens United. That ruling officially prohibited limits on so-called “independent expenditures,” which not only triggered record amounts of cash flooding into elections, but also narrowed the legal concept of corruption.

Under the new precedent, illegal corruption is now only cash stuffed in an envelope and exchanged for explicit favors — but not most soft forms of purchased influence and access. Industries can use super PACs and “independent expenditures” to effectively bankroll the campaigns of compliant legislators — as long as the quid pro quo is not explicitly written down.

“That [donors] may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt,” the majority stated. “Independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy. . . . Ingratiation and access, in any event, are not corruption.”

Four years later, conservative justices issued the McCutcheon ruling that struck down limits on aggregate amounts of cash that individual donors can funnel to candidates and political parties. Once again, the basis of the ruling was the insane idea that corruption is only explicit quid-pro-quo favors, rather than the perpetual purchase of access and influence.

“Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption,” the majority ruled. “Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner ‘influence over or access to’ elected officials or political parties.”

A year after that, Roberts’s court used the McDonnell ruling to legalize the very quid-pro-quo corruption it previously said was still prohibited. In that case, the court stipulated that yes, a nutritional supplement industry executive delivered “$175,000 in loans, gifts, and other benefits” to Virginia Republican governor Bob McDonnell in exchange for him setting up meetings with state officials to promote the company’s products. However, the court insisted that such a quid pro quo is legal, and then berated law enforcement officials for trying to uphold anti-corruption laws.

“Setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event does not, standing alone, qualify as an ‘official act,” Roberts wrote in the unanimous opinion. “Our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.”

Court Declares Corruption “A Central Feature of Democracy”

That trio of rulings was a prelude to Roberts’s new FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate ruling — a piece of judicial performance art designed to let big donors funnel cash not just into politicians’ campaigns, but also into their personal bank accounts.

At issue was a twenty-year-old law that prohibited elected officials from using more than $250,000 of post-election campaign donations to repay personal loans they give their campaigns. That may seem arbitrary, but the point of the statute was straightforward: it prevented politicians from loaning their campaigns unlimited amounts of money at profitably high interest rates knowing that favor-seeking donors would pay the lucrative vig after the election — when the politician is positioned to deliver legislative favors.

Such a scheme may seem like a far-fetched subplot from The Distinguished Gentleman or Thank You For Smokingbut it’s all too real.

Two decades ago, donors helped a Democratic lawmaker rake in more than $200,000 of interest on a personal loan that she made to her own campaign. Dissenting judges in the Cruz case documented situations in Ohio, Alaska, and Kentucky where donors helped top state officials recoup their personal campaign loans after their elections — and those donors were then rewarded with state contracts.

One amicus brief from a campaign finance watchdog group noted that even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called post-election fundraising to recoup loans an “unethical practice of shaking down special interests.”

Until now, the law was working as intended: a study found that while self-lending politicians are generally more responsive to post-election donors’ legislative demands, once the $250,000 limit was created, that responsiveness decreased.

But then came the epic legal troll from Cruz, who engineered the case by purposely violating the $250,000 loan repayment limit in his 2018 Senate campaign. His cartoonishly corrupt goal: striking down the limit and in the process reaping himself a personal $545,000 windfall from past self-loans that his big donors could recoup for him.

Cruz’s case was boosted by amicus briefs from fellow GOP senators (including McConnell) and the Republican National Committee. The New Civil Liberties Alliance and the Institute for Free Speech, which filed their own amicus briefs, are bankrolled by the Leo-led dark money network that helped install five of the six conservative justices currently on the Supreme Court.

And now the Texas senator’s bet has paid off: the Roberts Court last month ruled that access — and favor-seeking donors funneling post-election cash to lawmakers’ personal bank accounts via campaign loans is “the sort of ‘corruption,’ loosely conceived, that this Court has repeatedly explained is not legitimately regulated.”

The Roberts-written opinion then declared that campaign donors’ “influence and access embody a central feature of democracy — that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

The Citizens Unitednone Era

So to review: In response to the passage of bipartisan campaign finance reforms in the early 2000s, the Roberts Court spent a dozen years dismantling those reforms and then making it legal to spend unlimited sums of money to buy public offices, give gifts to elected officials in exchange for favors, and directly funnel cash to politicians’ personal bank accounts as they write legislation.

At precisely the same time, legislators delivered tax cuts, subsidies, deregulation, bailouts, and other assorted favors to the donors writing the bribe checks — all while Supreme Court justices delivered ever-more extreme rulings to the delight of the dark money network that bought them their seats.

This system of legalized corruption is now almost perfected — but Roberts and his colleagues’ crusade almost certainly will not stop there. Of late, the American right and lower courts are signaling a new attack on laws that merely require disclosure, insisting that transparency is unconstitutional “compelled speech.” If Roberts soon applies that argument to campaign finance, the buying and selling of democracy that he legalized could happen in complete anonymity.

In Five to Four’s recent podcast reviewing the Cruz case, one of the hosts noted that this is Roberts and his fellow extremists on the court screaming their ideology out loud, “literally saying, yeah, some corruption can be regulated, but light corruption, that’s free speech.”

And that, he argues, is why the campaign finance cases will define this judicial epoch. They have created the superstructure upon which all the other horrible laws and precedent are built — or, more precisely, bought.

“There’s so much awful that the court is doing right now [but] I really do think that the stuff that’s going to define this era looking back will be their campaign finance — and election-related decisions,” he said. “Just like the early 1900s, we call it the Lochner Era for one of the more egregious cases of the court striking down worker-friendly regulations. I think this is gonna be the Citizens United Era.”

Chief Justice John Roberts Is to Blame for the Supreme Court’s Extremism

Haitian Asylum Seekers Take Biden Admin to Court for Racial Discrimination, Rights Violations | Democracy Now!

Haitian Asylum Seekers Take Biden Admin to Court for Racial Discrimination, Rights Violations | Democracy Now!

Supreme Court to Hear Trump’s Immunity Claim, With Arguments Set for April - The New York Times

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Trump’s Immunity Claim, Setting Arguments for April

"The former president’s trial on charges of plotting to subvert the 2020 election will remain on hold while the justices consider the matter.

Former President Donald J. Trump, standing on a stage with a red floor and wearing a dark suit and red tie. He has his right arm raised and is making a fist.
Former President Donald J. Trump appealed to the Supreme Court a ruling rejecting his claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

The justices scheduled arguments for the week of April 22 and said proceedings in the trial court would remain frozen while they considered the matter.

The court’s brief order said the court will decide this question: “Whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

The Supreme Court’s response to Mr. Trump’s bid for delay had taken on increasing urgency because its ultimate resolution would determine whether and how quickly Mr. Trump could go to trial. That, in turn, could affect his election prospects and, should he be re-elected, his ability to scuttle the prosecution.

In an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to intervene, Mr. Trump said a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had been wrong to rule that he may be criminally charged for his conduct as president. Total immunity for his official conduct, Mr. Trump’s application said, is required by the separation of powers, implicit in procedures for impeaching the president and needed to prevent partisan misuse of the criminal justice system.

“An absence of criminal immunity for official acts threatens the very ability of the president to function properly,” the filing said. “Any decision by the president on a politically controversial question would face the threat of indictment by the opposing party after a change in administrations.”

Mr. Trump, widely considered the Republican front-runner, added a practical concern.

“Conducting a monthslong criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign against President Biden — which appears to be the whole point of the special counsel’s persistent demands for expedition,” the application said. “The D.C. Circuit’s order thus threatens immediate irreparable injury to the First Amendment interests of President Trump and tens of millions of American voters, who are entitled to hear President Trump’s campaign message as they decide how to cast their ballots in November.”

Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the federal prosecutions of Mr. Trump, took issue with every element of his argument, citing his efforts to subvert democracy.

If Mr. Trump’s “radical claim were accepted,” Mr. Smith wrote, “it would upend understandings about presidential accountability that have prevailed throughout history while undermining democracy and the rule of law — particularly where, as here, a former president is alleged to have committed crimes to remain in office despite losing an election, thereby seeking to subvert constitutional procedures for transferring power and to disenfranchise millions of voters.”

Mr. Smith added that there was no reason to fear tit-for-tat prosecutions that would chill other presidents from taking decisive action.

“That dystopian vision runs contrary to the checks and balances built into our institutions and the framework of the Constitution,” Mr. Smith wrote.

In a supporting brief urging the justices to deny Mr. Trump’s request for a stay, several former prominent officials who had served in Republican administrations said the court need not rule broadly, as the conduct Mr. Trump is accused of was so clearly outside of any immunity the Constitution might confer.

“Denying a stay would not preclude possible federal criminal immunity for a president’s official acts in some different, exceptional situation,” the brief said.

Mr. Smith echoed the point, citing the officials’ brief. “A sufficient basis for resolving this case would be that, whatever the rule in other contexts not presented here,” he wrote, “no immunity attaches to a president’s commission of federal crimes to subvert the electoral process.”

Supreme Court to Hear Trump’s Immunity Claim, With Arguments Set for April - The New York Times

Michigan Primary Takeaways: ‘Uncommitted’ Makes Itself Heard

Michigan Primary Takeaways: ‘Uncommitted’ Makes Itself Heard

“President Biden endured a protest vote, Donald Trump fended off Nikki Haley again, and both may face challenges with their party coalitions as they start to look toward November.

Election officials inside a school gymnasium helping a woman in a head scarf seated at a folding table. There are pens and ballots and an iced-coffee cup on the table.
A protest vote against President Biden was organized by local Arab American leaders in Michigan.Emily Elconin for The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Donald J. Trump won Michigan’s primary elections on Tuesday as the president and his predecessor hurtle toward a rematch in November.

But the results showed some of the fragility of the political coalitions they have constructed in a critical state for the fall. Losing any slice of support is perilous for both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden won Michigan in 2020 by about 150,000 votes, and Mr. Trump carried it in 2016 by about 11,000 votes.

The results of the primaries on Tuesday carried extra weight because Michigan was the first state that is a top general-election battleground to hold its primary in 2024.

Here are four takeaways from the results:

President Biden, left, stands with Gretchen Whitmer, right, with four people behind them clapping, cheering and smiling.
President Biden with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan speaking to United Auto Workers members.Pete Marovich for The New York Times

‘Uncommitted’ succeeded in grabbing Biden’s attention.

When the movement to persuade Democrats to vote “uncommitted” began three weeks ago, its public goal was clear: Pile enough pressure on Mr. Biden that he would call for an unconditional cease-fire in Gaza.

Since then, top White House officials told Arab American leaders in Dearborn, Mich., that they had regrets over how the administration had responded to the crisis. Mr. Biden called Israel’s military action “over the top.” And on the eve of the primary, he said he hoped a cease-fire agreement would be in place within a week. (The view from Israel and Gaza suggested Mr. Biden was being a bit optimistic.)

And yet the strength of the “uncommitted” effort surprised the president’s campaign, which until this week didn’t anticipate the strength of anti-Biden sentiment among Michigan Democrats.

Sign up for the Israel-Hamas War Briefing.  The latest news about the conflict.

In the early hours of Wednesday, roughly 13 percent of primary voters had chosen “uncommitted” — a share that paled next to Mr. Biden’s 81 percent, but represented more than 75,000 people in Michigan who made the effort to lodge their disapproval of the president.

The movement is now likely to spread to other states, many of which have an option for voters to choose “uncommitted” or “no preference” in their primaries. Listen to Michigan, the group that kicked off the state’s protest vote, is holding an organizing call for supporters in Minnesota, which votes next week, and Washington State, which holds its primary on March 12.

“This is the only option we have to enact democracy in this moment,” said Asma Mohammed, a progressive activist who is among the leaders of a new group called Uncommitted Minnesota. “We are against a Trump presidency, and we also want Biden to be better. If that means pushing him to his limit, that is what it will take.”

The challenge for the Biden campaign will be slowing any perceived momentum after Michigan by those protesting his Gaza policy. As long as the war grinds on and the United States keeps sending aid to Israel, there is little Mr. Biden can do to assuage voters who are angry about the mounting Palestinian death toll.

The protest vote in presidential primaries

Percent of vote going to “uncommitted” or to minor candidates in party primaries where an incumbent president ran without major competition

5.8% minor candidates

Both front-runners have clear vulnerabilities.

Mr. Trump has long been the heavy favorite to become the Republican nominee. Mr. Biden left little doubt that he would run again for Democrats.

Yet tens of thousands of Michiganders in both parties voted against their standard-bearers on Tuesday, a stark rejection that suggests they could have problems stitching together a winning coalition in November. The saving grace for each man, as Karl Rove, the former top strategist for George W. Bush, vividly put it recently, is that “only one can lose.”

Part of the reason Michigan’s results appear more damaging to Mr. Biden than Mr. Trump is the matter of expectations.

Ms. Haley has been campaigning against Mr. Trump for months, and her share of the Republican electorate has gone down from New Hampshire to South Carolina to Michigan.

But Mr. Biden cruised through his first two primaries in South Carolina and Nevada before a loosely organized group of Arab American political operatives, with $200,000 and three weeks to spare, won enough support that their effort is likely to clinch delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

“If the White House is listening, if our congressional leaders are listening, if our state leaders are listening, we need a change of course or we risk the complete unraveling of American democracy come November,” said Mayor Abdullah Hammoud of Dearborn.

Biden needs to keep an eye on college towns.

It was not surprising to see “uncommitted” beat Mr. Biden in Dearborn and Hamtramck, two of the Michigan cities with the highest concentrations of Arab Americans. With nearly all ballots counted, Dearborn gave 56 percent of its Democratic primary vote to “uncommitted.” In Hamtramck, “uncommitted” drew 61 percent of the city’s Democratic vote.

Perhaps more worrisome for Mr. Biden was his performance in Ann Arbor, a college town 30 miles to the west.

There, where most students and faculty members at the University of Michigan live, “uncommitted” earned 19 percent of the vote. In East Lansing, home to Michigan State University, “uncommitted” got 15 percent of the vote.

While no other battleground states have Arab American communities the size of Michigan’s, they all have college towns where young, progressive voters are angry about American support for Israel.

It is in those places — Madison, Wis.; Athens, Ga.; Chapel Hill and Durham, N.C.; Tucson, Ariz.; and State College, Pa., among others — where Mr. Biden faces a general-election threat if he does not attract overwhelming support and turnout among students in November.

Nikki Haley’s still in it, but she’s not going to win it.

Donald J. Trump won — again. Nikki Haley lost — again.

At one point in the nominating calendar, the Michigan primary had the potential to be a brief but notable way station between the four first states and Super Tuesday.

But the lopsided results offered more of the same, with Mr. Trump dominating everywhere in Michigan and Ms. Haley on track for her weakest showing since the race narrowed to two candidates. She marches on, with planned rallies and fund-raisers in seven states and Washington, D.C., before Super Tuesday on March 5.

The month of February was about momentum, and Mr. Trump has all of it. March is about delegates, and he has most of those, too.

But the race for delegates is about to quicken sharply. California alone on March 5 has more delegates at stake than all of the contests in January and February combined.

Ms. Haley’s campaign called her share of the vote — she was below 30 percent early Wednesday — “a flashing warning sign for Trump in November.” But it was a warning sign for her candidacy now.

Nicholas Nehamas contributed reporting from Dearborn, Mich., and Alyce McFadden from New York.

Reid J. Epstein covers campaigns and elections from Washington. Before joining The Times in 2019, he worked at The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Newsday and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. More about Reid J. Epstein

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Opinion Criticizing a president is always okay — even one running against Trump

Opinion Criticizing a president is always okay — even one running against Trump

A “Vote Uncommitted” sign is seen on the ground at a rally in Hamtramck, Mich., on Sunday ahead of Tuesday's statewide primary. (Joshua Lott/The Washington Post) 

“Democrats and others on the left need to stop slamming fellow liberals for criticizing President Biden. The argument that defending democracy means people should keep their concerns about the most powerful person in the country to themselves because it’s an election year is antithetical to robust public debate, free thought and other principles at the heart of democracy itself.

Thousands of Michigan Democrats are expected to vote “uncommitted” Tuesday in the party’s presidential primary, to show their opposition to Biden’s support of Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

I assume Democrats strongly aligned with the president will attack the “uncommitted” voters for such a public rebuke of Biden, which they will say hurts the president and therefore automatically helps former president Donald Trump’s campaign. Some Biden backers are already making that argument. And the “you’re helping Trump” charge has been used against left-leaning writers who have said Democrats should reconsider putting up Biden as the party’s candidate and against liberal talk-show host Jon Stewart for suggesting the president’s age is a legitimate issue. (To his credit, Biden himself never makes these “shut up and fall in line” type of arguments.)

“If you’re not willing to just support the president now … you might as well just get your MAGA hat, because you now are helping Trump,” Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said during an interview on MSNBC last week.

Democrats pushing back against any criticism of Biden do have a strong argument: They say that everything possible must be done to prevent a second term of the radical, anti-democratic Trump — even discouraging legitimate criticism of the president. And it’s difficult to imagine it helps Biden electorally to have fellow Democrats saying he is old, unpopular, afraid of taking questions from the media and bungling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (We shouldn’t automatically assume these criticisms will hurt Biden in November. Barack Obama resoundingly won the 2008 election, despite his supporters’ claims that Hillary Clinton’s extended primary run against him that spring were severely damaging Obama’s general election prospects.)

Left-leaning critics of Biden are in a complicated position. Criticizing Biden nowcould result in Trump winning and turning the United States into an autocracy where, in the future, it would be much harder to slam a sitting president.

But even if Democratic criticism of Biden increases Trump’s chances of winning, I still support people airing their concerns. Biden critics are engaging in essential acts of democracy: showing up and protesting at a political leader’s events; slamming him in writing; voting against him in primaries to signal frustration. Democracy is what so many of us on the left claim we are fighting to defend from Trump. We shouldn’t be against democratic acts because they are electorally inconvenient.

If democratic actions must be paused anytime an election is nearby, to prevent the ascent of an autocratic leader, we are already living in something less than a full-fledged democracy.

Yes, you might say, because of the radicalism of today’s Republicans, America is a quasi-democracy and it’s essential for Biden to win to keep the “quasi” part. But in a democracy, the right way to win an election isn’t trying to suppress alternative views but instead convincing people that your side’s arguments are better.

In the case of the Democrats, either defending Biden’s Gaza policy on the merits (very hard) or pushing him to change course (easier) are much more democratic alternatives than telling critics they shouldn’t express their concerns publicly. Arguing that Biden is a capable president is a far superior course than suggesting people shouldn’t bring up his age.

I deeply fear a Trump victory. But part of democracy is that sometimes a terrible candidate wins. A bigger subversion of democracy would be if the tens of millions of people who are likely to vote for Biden this fall were browbeat into never publicly disagreeing with him before the election. “To protect democracy, people should not criticize the sitting president, the most powerful person in the country,” is a ridiculous and highly contradictory argument. Democrats like Fetterman should stop making it.“

Monday, February 26, 2024

Supreme Court Seems Open to Free Speech Challenges to Social Media Laws - The New York Times

Supreme Court Seems Open to Free Speech Challenges to Social Media Laws

"The tech industry argues that laws in Florida and Texas, prompted by conservative complaints about censorship, violate the First Amendment. The court’s decision could fundamentally alter the nature of speech on the internet.

A person in dark clothing walking past the steps of the Supreme Court.
Two trade associations argue that the actions a judge called censorship were editorial choices protected by the First Amendment, which generally prohibits government restrictions on speech based on content and viewpoint.Kenny Holston/The New York Times

The Supreme Court seemed skeptical on Monday of laws in Florida and Texas that bar major social media companies from making editorial judgments about which messages to allow.

The laws were enacted in an effort to shield conservative voices on the sites, but a decision by the court, expected by June, will almost certainly be its most important statement on the scope of the First Amendment in the internet era, with broad political and economic implications.

A ruling that tech platforms have no editorial discretion to decide which posts to allow would expose users to a greater variety of viewpoints but almost certainly amplify the ugliest aspects of the digital age, including hate speech and disinformation.

Though a ruling in favor of big platforms like Facebook and YouTube appeared likely, the court also seemed poised to return the cases to the lower courts to answer questions about how the laws apply to sites that do not seem to moderate their users’ speech in the same way, like Gmail, Venmo, Uber and Etsy.

The justices differed about whether the laws, which have been blocked for now, should go into effect in the meantime. But a majority seemed inclined to keep them on hold while the litigation moves forward. Several justices said that the states violated the First Amendment by telling a handful of major platforms that they could not moderate their users’ posts, drawing distinctions between government censorship prohibited by the First Amendment and actions by private companies to determine what speech to include on their sites.

“I have a problem with laws that are so broad that they stifle speech just on their face,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh read a sentence from a 1976 campaign finance decision that has long been a touchstone for him. “The concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment,” he said, indicating that he rejected the states’ argument that they may regulate the fairness of public debate in private settings.

“I wonder,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said, “since we’re talking about the First Amendment, whether our first concern should be with the state regulating what, you know, we have called the modern public square.”

Henry C. Whitaker, Florida’s solicitor general, responded that “the state has an interest, a First Amendment interest, in promoting and ensuring the free dissemination of ideas.”

Justice Elena Kagan said the major platforms had good reasons to reject posts inciting insurrection, endangering public health and spreading hate speech. “Why isn’t that a First Amendment judgment?” she asked.

The court’s three most conservative members — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — seemed sympathetic to the state laws. All three said phrases like “content moderation” were euphemisms for censorship.

When the discussion turned to less prominent sites, the justices across the ideological spectrum were troubled by the lack of information about them in the record before the court. Several indicated that they might analyze the First Amendment question differently depending on the platform.

Justice Kagan asked whether states could tell services like Venmo, Dropbox and Uber that they may not discriminate on the basis of their users’ viewpoints.

“Wouldn’t that be all right?” she asked Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for the challengers.

Mr. Clement said no, responding that all of those services “are still in the expressive business,” meaning that speech is part of their core activities in ways not true of, say, a gas station or ice cream stand.

Other justices asked about email and messaging services.

“Does Gmail have a First Amendment right to delete, let’s say, Tucker Carlson’s or Rachel Maddow’s Gmail accounts if they don’t agree with his or her viewpoints?” Justice Alito asked Mr. Clement.

Mr. Clement responded that the service “might be able to do that,” adding that such questions had not been the focus of the litigation.

He added that forbidding the platforms to make distinctions based on viewpoint would destroy their businesses.

“If you have to be viewpoint-neutral,” he said, “that means that if you have materials that are involved in suicide prevention, you also have to have materials that advocate suicide promotion. Or, if you have materials on your site that are pro-Semitic, then you have to let on materials onto your site that are antisemitic. And that is a formula for making these websites very unpopular to both users and advertisers.”

The laws’ supporters said they were an attempt to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship, through which major social media companies had deleted posts expressing conservative views. The laws were prompted in part by the decisions of some platforms to bar President Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The laws, from Florida and Texas, differ in their details. Florida’s prevents the platforms from permanently barring candidates for political office in the state, while Texas’ prohibits the platforms from removing any content based on a user’s viewpoint.

“To generalize just a bit,” Judge Andrew S. Oldham wrote in a decision upholding the Texas law, the Florida law “prohibits all censorship of some speakers,” while the one from Texas “prohibits some censorship of all speakers” when based on the views they express.

The two trade associations challenging the state laws — NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association — said that the actions Judge Oldham called censorship were editorial choices protected by the First Amendment, which generally prohibits government restrictions on speech based on content and viewpoint.

The groups said that social media companies were entitled to the same constitutional protections enjoyed by newspapers, which are generally free to publish what they like without government interference.

Justice Kavanaugh appeared to embrace that position, asking Mr. Whitaker, the lawyer representing Florida, whether states could tell publishing houses, printing presses, movie theaters, bookstores and newsstands what to feature.

Mr. Whitaker said that newspapers and bookstores are engaged in “inherently expressive conduct,” while “our whole point is that these social media platforms are not like those.”

He said that, indeed, the platforms were common carriers required to transmit everyone’s messages and that the Florida law protected free speech by ensuring that users have access to many points of view.

Several justices said it was hard to reconcile the platforms’ arguments on Monday with what they had said last year in cases concerning Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from liability for what their users post.

In those cases, Justice Thomas said, the platforms maintained that they were merely conduits for others’ speech. “Now you’re saying that you are engaged in editorial discretion and expressive conduct,” he told Mr. Clement. “Doesn’t that seem to undermine your Section 230 arguments?”

Mr. Clement responded that a key part of the provision was meant to protect platforms from liability for making editorial judgments

Federal appeals courts reached conflicting conclusions in 2022 about the constitutionality of the two laws.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit largely upheld a preliminary injunction blocking Florida’s law.

“Social media platforms exercise editorial judgment that is inherently expressive,” Judge Kevin C. Newsom wrote for the panel. “When platforms choose to remove users or posts, deprioritize content in viewers’ feeds or search results or sanction breaches of their community standards, they engage in First Amendment-protected activity.”

But a divided three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court’s orderblocking the Texas law.

“We reject the platforms’ attempt to extract a freewheeling censorship right from the Constitution’s free speech guarantee,” Judge Oldham wrote for the majority. “The platforms are not newspapers. Their censorship is not speech.”

The Biden administration supported the social media companies in the two cases, Moody v. NetChoice, No. 22-277, and NetChoice v. Paxton, No. 22-555.

The Supreme Court blocked the Texas law in 2022 while the case moved forward by a 5-to-4 vote.

Justice Alito wrote that the issues were so novel and significant that the Supreme Court would have to consider them at some point. He added that he was skeptical of the argument that the social media companies have editorial discretion protected by the First Amendment the way newspapers and other traditional publishers do.

“It is not at all obvious,” he wrote, “how our existing precedents, which predate the age of the internet, should apply to large social media companies.”

Supreme Court Seems Open to Free Speech Challenges to Social Media Laws - The New York Times