A US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has said that Congress should consider whether laws should be updated to better regulate social media platforms that have "unbridled control" over "unprecedented" amounts of speech.
According to CNN, the provocative and controversial opinion comes as Twitter banned former President Donald Trump from its platform for violating its rules on incitement of violence. Some conservatives have called on more regulations in the tech world to combat what they view as political bias on social media.
"If part of the problem is private, concentrated control over online content and platforms available to the public, then part of the solution may be found in doctrines that limit the right of a private company to exclude," Thomas wrote in a 12-page concurring opinion Monday.
Thomas' remarks have raised concerns among critics.
The Supreme Court analyst said that it is the first time that a Supreme Court justice appears to endorse the view increasingly prevalent among conservatives that private social media platforms should potentially be subject to significant government regulation.
"Justice Thomas's opinion represents the first time that we have seen a Supreme Court Justice appear to endorse the view increasingly prevalent among conservatives that private social media platforms should potentially be subject to significant government regulation notwithstanding the First Amendment," said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
No other justice joined Thomas's opinion, which came as he agreed with the court's decision to dismiss a case concerning Trump's use of Twitter when he was President.
Thomas said the court was right to dismiss the case that predated the election and Twitter's decision to ban Trump after the Capitol Hill riot.
However, Thomas added the issue caused him to think about the "principal legal difficulty that surrounds" a digital platform, specifically the concentration of power in the hands of so few owners at social media companies.
Today's digital platforms, Thomas argued, "provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech," but he said it also concentrates control "of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties."
In particular, he pointed out that Twitter was able to remove any person from the platform -- "even the President of the United States."
"As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms," Thomas said.
This is not the first time that Thomas has made such controversial comments.
In 2019, he used one abortion dispute to write a concurrence about his fear that abortion could become a "tool of eugenic manipulation."
In 2019, he called for reconsideration of a landmark First Amendment precedent New York Times v. Sullivan, which makes it more difficult for public figures to sue for defamation, opining that the decision that was a "policy-driven" decision "masquerading as constitutional law.
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