Social media advocates sue Florida over new law
31 May 2021 | 0
Big tech has sued to overturn a new Florida law targeting social media companies, calling it “hopelessly vague” and unconstitutional.
On Thursday, trade associations NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCITA) filed a lawsuit to negate SB7072. The bill, signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday, would prevent social media companies from banning political candidates in the run-up to elections and would make it easier for state residents to sue the companies for perceived bias in their censorship. It is due to come into effect on 1 July.
The trade associations argue that the law would infringe upon the first amendment to the US Constitution, protecting freedom of speech. It would also violate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by attempting to prevent online platforms from making their own decisions about how to restrict objectionable content, the complaint said.
“Rather than preventing what it calls ‘censorship,’ the Act does the exact opposite: it empowers government officials in Florida to police the protected editorial judgment of online businesses that the State disfavors and whose perceived political viewpoints it wishes to punish,” the lawsuit warned.
The complaint called out Florida for excluding theme park owners, such as the Walt Disney Company, which operates in the state, from the law.
“This undisguised singling out of disfavored companies reflects the Act’s true purpose, which its sponsors freely admitted: to target and punish popular online services for their perceived views and for certain content-moderation decisions that state officials opposed,” the lawsuit said.
The industry associations added that content moderation benefits users by weeding out material including child abuse, revenge porn, white supremacist, terrorist material, and election misinformation from foreign adversaries.
The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was also critical of the new Florida law but isn’t party to the lawsuit. This week, it issued a press release calling SB 7072 “a dangerous step towards a state-run Internet.”
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