Court of Appeal: Florida Law Unconstitutional on Social Media


Florida law to punish social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter unconstitutionally violates the First Amendment, which a federal appeals court on Monday gave the company a major victory for a company accused by GOP Governor Ron DeSantis for discrimination on conservative ideas. is. .

The three judges of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously said it would be too much for DeSantis and the Republican-led Florida Legislature to direct social media companies how to conduct business under the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of expression. concluded that.

“Simply put, governments cannot tell an individual or an organization what to say or how to say it,” said circuit judge Kevin Newsom, nominated by former President Donald Trump. “We believe that social media companies, even the largest ones, are quite likely to be private actors with First Amendment rights.”

This judgment upholds a similar decision by a federal district judge in Florida on this law signed by DeSantis in 2021. It was part of an overall conservative effort to portray social media companies as generally progressive in terms of perspective and hostile to ideas outside of that perspective. , especially in political rights.

DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony in May 2021: “Some of these giant, giant companies in Silicon Valley are wielding power over our population unprecedented in American history. One of their main missions seems to be to suppress ideas. ”

However, the appeals panel ruled that the behavior of the tech companies was protected, and Judge Newsom ruled that Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other companies “are engaging in constitutionally protected expressive activities when moderating and curating the content they distribute on their platforms.” ” he wrote.

There was no immediate response to an email sent by a DeSantis spokesperson or communications director on Monday afternoon about the ruling. DeSantis is running for re-election this year and is aiming for a 2024 GOP nomination. Similar bills were proposed in other states, but he was the first governor to sign such a bill.

In Texas, one of them was allowed to come into force by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the technology company involved has requested an expedited U.S. Supreme Court review of whether to block it. A decision on this was not immediately announced.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, a non-profit organization representing technology and communications companies, said the ruling represents a victory for Internet users and freedom of expression in general. Especially since it involves potentially offensive content.

“For digital services to take action against problematic content (extremism, Russian propaganda, racism and abuse) on their sites,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement.

This law authorizes the Florida Attorney General to sue companies under the State’s Deception and Unfair Trade Practices Act. In addition, individual Floridians can sue social media companies for up to $100,000 if they feel they have been treated unfairly.

The bill targeted social media platforms with more than 100 million monthly users, including online giants like Twitter and Facebook. However, legislators said the Walt Disney Co. and made exceptions for those apps.

The law will require large social media companies to publish standards on how they decide “censorship, removal of platforms and bans on shadows.”

However, the Court of Appeals dismissed almost all statute orders with a few fewer provisions of the law.

“Social media platforms inherently make expressive editorial judgments. When a platform removes users or posts, lowers the priority of content in viewers’ feeds or search results, or sanctions violations of community standards, you engage in activities protected by the First Amendment,” Newsom said in a court of law. wrote in

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Mark Sherman of Washington and Brendan Farrington of Tallahassee contributed to this story.

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