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Big Tech hits back at Florida anti-censorship law

Social media giants challenge deplatforming ban


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (center) at Florida International University on May 24 Associated Press/Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald

Big Tech hits back at Florida anti-censorship law

Two tech industry trade groups representing Twitter, Facebook, and other companies filed a lawsuit Thursday against a Florida law regulating social media platforms.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 7072 on May 24, prohibiting social media companies from deplatforming Florida’s political candidates or otherwise restricting their posts. Social media companies can face fines of $250,000 per day for removing a candidate for statewide office for longer than two weeks. The law also provides a means to place companies found to have violated antitrust law on a blacklist, preventing them from contracting with public entities.

DeSantis and supporters of the law say it addresses company content moderators’ alleged bias against conservatives. “Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in Cuba and Venezuela,” DeSantis said. “If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”

NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association contend that the restrictions violate the companies’ First Amendment rights. The lawsuit argues the legislation will backfire, preventing platforms from taking down bad actors and removing incendiary content. It also highlights a notable exclusion from the rules: The Walt Disney Company and other large theme park companies operating in the state.

Some have argued that the federal or state governments could sidestep constitutional concerns by treating companies like Facebook and Twitter as the new public town square, more comparable to public utilities than private companies. That could allow the government to regulate these companies. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas floated that theory in a recent opinion.

Others point to long-established legal precedent protecting the rights of private companies, large and small. “Whether we’re talking about newspapers, cake-makers, or T-shirt shops, America has a lengthy history of court cases forbidding DeSantis from doing what he’s attempting to do,” wrote Scott Shackford, editor of the libertarian Reason.

The Florida law will keep the hot-button issue of Big Tech bias on the radar, but what to do about it remains as unclear as ever.


Steve West

Steve is a legal correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, Wake Forest University School of Law, and N.C. State University. He worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor and is now an attorney in private practice. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, N.C.

@slntplanet

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FIMIKI

All the GOP-led efforts attacking big-tech and banning CRT-based instruction is supremely ironic. Constraining speech in the name of free speech? Attacking liberty in the name of liberty? Whatever happened to principles? Our glorious charge into the dark valley of the culture war has caused us to abandon the moral high ground.

The creation of alternative right-wing social media apps seems like the classical conservative option that avoids this anti-constitutional and self-defeating minefield.