Supreme Court Justices Signal Interest in Hearing Trump-Era Issues Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas delivers a keynote speech during a dedication of Georgia new Nathan Deal Judicial Center in Atlanta on Feb. 11, 2020 (AP Photo/John Amis, File)
By Theodore Bunker | Thursday, 08 April 2021 01:50 PM
Some of the Supreme Court's most conservative justices have indicated that the court could hear cases involving some of the issues that were pushed by former President Donald Trump during his administration, The Hill reports.
Justice Clarence Thomas, in a solo opinion earlier this week, said Twitter could be more tightly regulated following its banning of Trump, saying that the court could weigh in on technology companies' "highly concentrated control" over speech on their platforms.
"Today's digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors," Thomas wrote. "Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms."
Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch also have indicated that cases involving election rules could come before the court, specifically whether state officials and courts have the authority to change election rules as happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Justices have long used public statements or published opinions to invite litigation or legislative reform," Robert Tsai, a professor of constitutional law at Boston University, told the Hill. "It reminds us that they are part of the political community and that the modern Supreme Court is not simply a neutral institution but one that participates in determining the nation’s values."
In his opinion on Monday, Thomas wrote that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which allows tech companies to moderate their own platforms at protects them from lawsuits, may no longer apply in the modern era. Twitter’s banning Trump just before he left office also barred all of Twitter’s users from interacting with Trump’s messages.
"As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms," Thomas wrote. "The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions."
He concluded, "as Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms. The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions."
Jeff Kosseff, cybersecurity law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, said that Thomas’ opinion sounds like a call for challenges to the law.
"By once again raising questions about Section 230, Justice Thomas appears to be inviting plaintiffs to challenge both the constitutionality of Section 230," he said, "or at least the ways that lower courts have interpreted the statute."