Two organizations in the tech industry have Florida sued about the recently adopted rules for social networks. NetChoice and the CCIA – representing Amazon, Google, Intel, Samsung, Facebook and other tech giants – say SB 7072 violates the constitutional rights of private companies. They are asking a court to prevent the law from taking effect, calling it a “frontal assault on the First Amendment.”
SB 7072, which is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed earlier this week, limits how major social apps and websites can moderate user-generated content. It makes banning a political candidate or “ journalistic enterprise ” illegal in Florida, lets users sue if they think they have been banned without sufficient reason, requires an option to opt out of sorting algorithms, and puts companies that break the law on a “antitrust law”. violator blacklist ”that prevents them from doing business with Florida public entities. In particular, it contains an exception for companies that operate a theme park.
NetChoice and the CCIA say SB 7072 violates both constitutional protections and federal Section 230 rules. “As private companies, plaintiffs’ members have the right to decide what content is appropriate for their sites and platforms,” their complaint says. “The law requires members to display and prioritize user-generated content that violates their terms, policies and business practices; content that is likely to offend and repel their users and advertisers; and even content that is illegal, dangerous to public health and national security, and extremely inappropriate for a younger audience. “
The lawsuit alleges that Florida lawmakers and DeSantis specifically amended the law to penalize services they disagreed with moderation policies, while adding the arbitrary theme park exception to pacify Disney, Comcast NBCUniversal, and a handful of other major corporations. “The law is crony capitalism masquerading as consumer protection,” NetChoice vice president and general counsel Carl Szabo said in a statement.
The law’s supporters claim it fights against “deplatforming” users based on political speeches, saying that social networks have “turned the town square” into public spaces. Courts have contradicted the latter allegation outside of very specific exceptions, finding that Section 230 usually allows social networks to make their own moderation decisions – and states simply cannot replace that federal rule. However, the Florida bill had lawmakers and DeSantis show support for a Republican backlash against Silicon Valley, regardless of whether it actually goes into effect.