What the Supreme Court’s Snapchat decision means for online freedom of speech


A curse Snapchat story Has become the basis of the Supreme Court’s ruling on freedom of speech. The Supreme Court ruled that a public school in Pennsylvania violated the First Amendment rights of one of the students because she said in a Snapchat post “f-school f-softball f-cheer f-everything.”

At first glance, this case sounds like the kind of disciplinary action that most schools may have: a student identified as “BL” in court documents did not enter the school cheerleader, but instead played a “vent” on Snapchat. Justice Brett Kavanaugh descriptionThe post eventually surpassed her Snapchat friends and eventually led to her being suspended by cheerleaders.

But in its decision, the Supreme Court made it clear that even abnormal speeches are protected by the First Amendment. “It may be tempting to treat BL’s words as not worthy of the strong First Amendment protection discussed here. But sometimes it is necessary to protect what is superfluous to keep what is necessary,” Judge Stephen Breyer wrote in his majority opinion Tao.

Jeffrey Rosen, chief executive of the National Constitution Center, said that this case is also unique because it is the first time that the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed student speech on the Internet. Rosen told Engadget before the ruling: “One of the reasons this case is so important is that this is the first time the court has had the opportunity to resolve the boundary between on-campus and off-campus speech in the online world.”

In its decision, the Supreme Court left unresolved questions about how social media affects how these boundaries are drawn.The ruling emphasized the fact that the speech took place outside of school rather than during school activities, rather than how is it Comments were made. Although in another consensual opinion, Judge Samuel Alito pointed out that schools will have the right to control what students say when participating in online learning or other “online school activities.”

It is worth noting that Justice Clarence Thomas did raise the possible role of social media in these decisions in his only objection. He wrote: “Most people do not consider whether schools will generally have more power, rather than less power to punish students who spread their opinions through social media.” “Because off-campus speeches delivered through social media can be on campus It’s received (and can quickly spread to countless people), so it’s usually more likely to harm the school environment than the conversation outside the school.”

Even so, the ruling may still affect how future cases are handled. “Students will continue to be disciplined for what they post online, and the lower courts will again disagree, and at some point, the Supreme Court will be required to re-intervene,” Rosen said.

The BL case is not the only high-profile debate on freedom of speech and social media. But its uniqueness is that it is one of the few cases where the First Amendment applies to social media. “The First Amendment does not cover a lot of online speech,” Rosen said. “Private companies themselves do not necessarily have to respect the First Amendment.” This case is an exception because it involves a public school, so as Justice Alito wrote, the school “as part of the country.”

But most of us cannot claim that what we say on social media is protected by the First Amendment, despite claims by some politicians. As private companies, Facebook and YouTube, as well as Snapchat and Twitter, are free to set their own rules around content review.And the main question about what president Can’t or can’t say on social media-unless regulated by Congress-will be left to the platform itself or to groups created by the industry, such as Supervisory committee.

“Most actions involving freedom of speech will take place outside the Supreme Court,” Rosen said. “In some respects, Mark Zuckerberg and the person in charge of the platform have more power over freedom of speech than any king, president, or even Supreme Court judge.”

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