Big Tech associations sue Florida over new social media censorship law

Politics

BERLIN, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 16: A visitor tries out an Apple iPhone 7 on the first day of sales of the new phone at the Berlin Apple store on September 16, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. The new phone comes in two sizes, one with a 4.7 inch display, the other with a 5.5 inch display. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

TAMPA (WFLA) – Two tech trade groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against the state of Florida over a newly signed law that would fine social media platforms that try to permanently ban political candidates.

The complaint filed by NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) allege the Florida bill infringes on free speech protections and has a “political motive” to target companies based on the state’s opinion on companies’ content moderation decisions. 

“Americans everywhere should oppose Florida’s attempt to run roughshod over the First Amendment rights of private online businesses,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel of NetChoice. “By weakening the First Amendment rights of some, Florida weakens the First Amendment rights of all.”

According to reporting by NBC, SB 7072 was written “in nod” to the ban of former President Donald Trump being banned from Facebook and Twitter following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

“We cannot stand idly by as Florida’s lawmakers push unconstitutional bills into law that bring us closer to state-run media and a state-run internet,” Szabo adding. “The First Amendment protects social media platforms’ right to host and moderate content as they see fit for their business models and users.”

The bill gives the state’s election commission power to fine media companies up to $250,000 a day for “deplatforming” any candidate for statewide office, and $25,000 per day for de-platforming candidates for non-statewide offices from the day they qualify for an election to the end of the cycle when they stop being a candidate.

The Florida House voted 77-38 in favor of the bill, the Senate, 23-17.

“This session, we took action to ensure that ‘We the People’ — real Floridians across the Sunshine State — are guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in Cuba and Venezuela. If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”

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