USA Today has learned that calling it a “frontal attack on the First Amendment”, a federal lawsuit is seeking to overturn a Florida law that punishes social media companies for prohibiting speech from political candidates.
Two technology trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, on Thursday sued the state in Thalassi federal court on the grounds that a law designed to thwart alleged censorship of conservative attitudes and voices violated the constitution, According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by USA Today.
The tech industry’s lawsuit alleges that Florida law violates the First Amendment rights of online businesses and is preempted by a federal law that protects Internet companies from being sued for moderating content.
Signed on Monday by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the law is the first of its kind to allow Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube to unfairly ban or remove conservative content from their platforms, an allegation that companies deny.
“If Big Tech censors inconsistently enforce the rules, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology,” Decentis, a 2024 presidential contender and former president Donald Trump’s aide, said in a statement Monday. They will now be held accountable. “
But the lawsuit alleges that Florida is the one attempting to censor free speech and expression by forcing social media companies to disagree with speech and speakers.
“Instead of calling it ‘censorship’, the act does the exact opposite: it gives government officials in Florida the authority to police the protected editorial decision of online businesses the state dislikes and whose alleged political outlook seeks to punish Is, ”says Sue. “The Act is a frontal attack on the First Amendment and an extraordinary intervention by the government in the free market of ideas that would be unimaginable for traditional media, booksellers, lending libraries or newsstands.”
DeSantis could not immediately be contacted for comment.
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Under the law that went into effect on July 1, the state could impose fines of up to $ 250,000 a day on large social media companies if they delete the account of a statewide political candidate and if they remove the account of someone seeking local office $ 25,000 per day if you remove. For this, social media companies must notify users within seven days that they can be censored, giving them time to correct the post.
The law targets Internet businesses with more than 100 million monthly users but has made an exception for Disney and its platforms by exempting theme park owners. It allows Florida residents to sue online businesses for up to $ 100,000 if they believe they have been treated unfairly.
The lawsuit alleges that Florida’s ban on social media companies is a “blatant attack on daily content moderation options to protect the public and advertisers from pornography, terrorist incitement, false propaganda spread by foreign actors, genocide or race-based violence.” ” is. , COVID-19 vaccinates misinformation, fraudulent schemes and other harmful, objectionable or illegal content.
Law Professor: Florida law ‘apparently unconstitutional’
University of Santa Clara law professor Eric Goldman says Florida law was bound to attract legal challenges because some provisions of the new law are “clearly unconstitutional.”
“The Supreme Court has made it clear that publishers have the freedom to choose what content they want to publish, and the bill clearly seeks to strip publishers of that freedom,” he said. “Florida residents should expect better from their legislators, and they now see their tax dollars defending an uncertain bill that should never have been passed.”
Similar bills are under consideration in other states. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed support for legislation approved by the Texas Senate. State lawmakers from North Carolina and Louisiana have also introduced bills.
Spencer Cox of the Utah government vetoed similar legislation in March, citing “technical issues”.
Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature said legislation was needed to reduce and participate in social media companies’ influence on national interactions.
DeSantis said during a bill-signing ceremony at Florida International University in Miami, “Some of these big, big companies in Silicon Valley are exercising a power over our population, which really has no precedent in American history.” ” “Stop Big Tech Censorship” signal. “One of his major missions is suppressing ideas.”
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The political right has complained for years that Big Tech suppresses conservative voices and attitudes.
Trump made these “social media abuses” a major issue of his administration and re-election campaign.
DeSantis expressed his support for the Florida law soon after Trump and other conservative figures were booted from the social media platform in response to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
“Day by day, our freedom of expression as conservatives is under attack by the ‘Big Tech’ oligarchs in Silicon Valley. But in Florida, we said that this horrible example of partisan silence would not be tolerated , “Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, who put the bill in the House for DeSantis, said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the Facebook Oversight Board upheld Trump’s suspension. But a company-funded panel of external experts ruled that it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an indefinite suspension and directed the company to review the case within six months, possibly opening the door to Trump’s withdrawal.
His account on YouTube is still current, but he cannot upload videos. YouTube CEO Susan Wojski said in March that the Trump ban would be lifted “when we determine that the risk of violence has been reduced.”
Snapchat and Twitter banned Trump permanently.
The majority of both parties feel that there is a possibility of political censorship on social media, but this belief is most prevalent on political authority.
According to a Pew Research Center report last year, nine out of 10 Republicans and independents leaning toward the Republican Party say that it is at least somewhat likely that social media platforms have censored political views , Which he finds objectionable, a little over 85% in 2018.
Researchers say it is difficult to know whether platforms are politically biased because social media companies make little disclosure about how they decide what content is allowed and what is not. But this has not stopped the GOP from taking on Big Tech.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, faced Twitter CEO Jack Dorsy at a Senate hearing last year to stop the spread of an article in Facebook and Twitter from the New York Post, making unconfirmed claims about Hunter Biden’s business dealings Had gone.
“Who elected you and put you in charge of what the media is allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?” Cruz said.
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