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The Supreme Court cast doubt Monday on state laws that could affect how Facebook, TikTok, X, YouTube and other social media platforms regulate content posted by their users. The cases are among several this term in which the justices could set standards for free speech in the digital age.

In nearly four hours of arguments, several justices questioned aspects of laws adopted by Republican-dominated legislatures and signed by Republican governors in Florida and Texas in 2021. But they seemed wary of a broad ruling, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett warning of “land mines” she and her colleagues need to avoid in resolving the two cases.

While the details vary, both laws aimed to address conservative complaints that the social media companies were liberal-leaning and censored users based on their viewpoints, especially on the political right.

Differences on the court emerged over how to think about the platforms — as akin to newspapers that have broad free-speech protections, or telephone companies, known as common carriers, that are susceptible to broader regulation.

Chief Justice John Roberts suggested he was in the former camp, saying early in the session, “And I wonder, since we’re talking about the First Amendment, whether our first concern should be with the state regulating what we have called the modern public square?”

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas appeared most ready to embrace arguments made by lawyers for the states. Thomas raised the idea that the companies are seeking constitutional protection for “censoring other speech.”

Alito complained about the term “content moderation” that the sites employ to keep material off their platforms.

“Is it anything more than a euphemism for censorship?” he asked, later musing that term struck him as Orwellian. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, seemingly more favorable to the companies, took issue with calling the actions of private companies censorship, a term he said should be reserved for restrictions imposed by the government.

“When I think of Orwellian, I think of the state, not the private sector, not private individuals,” Kavanaugh said.

The precise contours of rulings in the two cases were not clear after arguments, although it seemed likely the court would not let the laws take effect. The justices posed questions about how the laws might affect businesses that are not their primary targets, including e-commerce sites like Uber and Etsy and email and messaging services.



The United Nations’ top court on Friday ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering Jerusalem to end the military offensive that has laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.

In a ruling that will keep Israel under the legal lens for years to come, the court offered little other comfort to Israel in a genocide case brought by South Africa that goes to the core of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. The court’s half-dozen orders will be difficult to achieve without some sort of cease-fire or pause in the fighting.

“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” said court President Joan E. Donoghue.

The ruling amounted to an overwhelming rebuke of Israel’s wartime conduct and added to mounting international pressure to halt the nearly 4-month-old offensive, which has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, decimated vast swaths of Gaza and driven nearly 85% of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

Allowing the accusations to stand stung the government of Israel, which was founded as a Jewish state after the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the fact that the court was willing to discuss the genocide charges was a “mark of shame that will not be erased for generations.” He also vowed to press ahead with the war.

The power of the ruling was magnified by its timing, coming on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.


India’s top court on Monday restored life prison sentences for 11 Hindu men who raped a Muslim woman during deadly religious rioting two decades ago and asked the convicts to surrender to the authorities within two weeks.

The Hindu men were convicted in 2008 of rape and murder. They were released in 2022 after serving 14 years in prison.

The victim, who is now in her 40s, was pregnant when she was brutally gang-raped in 2002 in western Gujarat state during communal rioting that was some of India’s worst religious violence with over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, killed.

Seven members of the woman’s family, including her 3-year-old daughter, were killed during the riots. The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify victims of sexual assault.

The men were eligible for remission of their sentence under a policy that was in place at the time of their convictions. At the time of their release, officials in Gujarat, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party holds power, had said the convicts were granted remission because they had completed over 14 years in jail.

A revised policy adopted in 2014 by the federal government prohibits remission release for those convicted of certain crimes, including rape and murder.

Following the release of the convicts, the victim had filed a petition with the Supreme Court, saying “the en masse premature release of the convicts… has shaken the conscience of the society.”

The 2002 riots have long hounded Modi, who was Gujarat’s top elected official at the time, amid allegations that authorities allowed and even encouraged the bloodshed. Modi has repeatedly denied having any role and the Supreme Court has said it found no evidence to prosecute him.


Donald Trump said Sunday he has decided against testifying for a second time at his New York civil fraud trial, posting on social media a day before his scheduled appearance that he “very successfully & conclusively” testified last month and saw no need to do so again.

The former president, the leading contender for the 2024 Republican nomination, had been expected to return to the witness stand Monday as a coda to his defense against New York Attorney General Letitia James ' lawsuit.

James, a Democrat, alleges Trump inflated his wealth on financial statements used in securing loans and making deals. The case threatens Trump’s real estate empire and cuts to the heart of his image as a successful businessman.

“I will not be testifying on Monday,” Trump wrote in an all-capital-letters, multipart statement on his Truth Social platform less than 20 hours before he was to take the witness stand.

“I have already testified to everything & have nothing more to say,” Trump added, leaving the final word among defense witnesses to an accounting expert hired by his legal team who testified last week that he found “no evidence, whatsoever, for any accounting fraud” in Trump’s financial statements.

A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about his decision.

The decision was an abrupt change from Trump’s posture in recent days, when his lawyers said he was insistent on testifying again despite their concerns about a gag order that has cost him $15,000 in fines for disparaging the judge’s law clerk.

“President Trump has already testified. There is really nothing more to say to a judge who has imposed an unconstitutional gag order and thus far appears to have ignored President Trump’s testimony and that of everyone else involved in the complex financial transactions at issue in the case,” Trump lawyer Christopher Kise said Sunday.

Trump’s decision came days after his son, Eric Trump, ditched his return appearance on the witness stand. Trump said on social media that he’d told Eric to cancel. It also follows Trump’s first trip back to court since he testified in the case on Nov. 6. Last Thursday, he watched from the defense table as the accounting professor, New York University professor Eli Bartov, blasted the state’s case and said Trump’s financial statements “were not materially misstated.”

Trump’s cancellation caught court officials by surprise. Without Trump on the witness stand, the trial will be on hold until Tuesday, when Bartov will finish his testimony. State lawyers say they’ll then call at least one rebuttal witness.

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