TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A lawsuit over Florida’s law banning censorship on social media platforms has evolved. Former President Donald Trump filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Florida’s legislation.
Internet advocacy non-profit NetChoice is in the middle of suing the state of Florida for the law, which it argues impacts free speech rights. Senate Bill 7072 was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 24, 2021.
Arguing for the Florida law, Trump’s legal representatives said he is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed against Twitter, Meta, and YouTube, alleging censorship. It specifically cites the Florida law as the legal source for seeking relief.
It reads in part that “recent experience has fostered a widespread and growing concern that behemoth social media platforms have ‘seriously leveraged their economic power into a means of affecting the community’s political life,'” citing Eugene Volokh’s analysis of social media companies.
The Trump brief said the concern over this trend is “heightened” because the platforms “shroud decisions to exclude certain users and viewpoints in secrecy, giving no meaningful explanation as to why certain users are excluded while others posting equivalent content are tolerated.”
In a statement issued after the bill was signed into law, DeSantis said the bill was about holding Big Tech accountable and providing transparency while safeguarding access for Floridians who use online platforms.
“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,” DeSantis said in 2021. “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.”
Additional comments made about the bill by DeSantis and others equated the alleged censorship as targeting American conservatives.
“What we’ve been seeing across the U.S. is an effort to silence, intimidate, and wipe out dissenting voices by the leftist media and big corporations. Today, by signing SB 7072 into law, Florida is taking back the virtual public square as a place where information and ideas can flow freely,” Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said at the bill signing.
As previously covered, SB 7072 is designed to hold companies such as Meta, Facebook’s parent company, Twitter, and other online platforms, accountable for alleged censorship. It authorized Florida’s Department of Legal Affairs to investigate tech companies for violations.
Those violations include “willfully” banning users who are campaigning to or serving as a member of public office, as well as allowing individuals to seek monetary fines for alleged censorship.
The bill was contested in court soon after becoming law by NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association. The two tech advocates say the bill infringes on free speech protections and was politically motivated to target specific companies based on their content moderation decisions.
“Americans everywhere should oppose Florida’s attempt to run roughshod over the First Amendment rights of private online businesses,” Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel of NetChoice said when the lawsuit was announced. “By weakening the First Amendment rights of some, Florida weakens the First Amendment rights of all.”