Court of Appeals rejects most of Florida’s social media law

Most of a Florida law designed to prevent social media companies from restricting users’ political expression violates the companies’ rights to free speech and cannot be enforced, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, agreeing with a lower one court match.

However, a three-judge panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals has revived part of the law that requires companies like Facebook, Alphabet Google and Meta Platforms Twitter to disclose the standards they use to moderate content on their platforms.

The unanimous decision was authored by Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom, who was appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump.

The 11th federal court ruled that the political speech portions of the law violated social media companies’ right to choose what to post. However, it said it was probably not the case that they would have to disclose their standards and asked the lower court to reconsider the issue.

Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, called the decision “stunning” and said the governor’s office is considering an appeal. DeSantis signed the law into law in May 2021.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
A spokesman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the decision “staggering” and said the governor’s office is considering an appeal.

NetChoice, an industry group that includes Facebook, Google and Twitter, which had sued the law, cited protections under the US Constitution when asked to comment.

“The First Amendment protects platforms and their right to moderate content as they see fit – and the government cannot force them to host content they don’t want,” NetChoice Vice President Carl Szabo said in a statement.

DeSantis, a Republican, previously said the law was necessary to prevent “censorship” by “big tech,” citing Trump’s removal by Twitter and Facebook in January 2021. The companies cited Trump’s praise for his supporters for doing so US Capitol stormed after losing the 2020 presidential election as the reason for the bans.

Florida law would penalize social media companies that ban political candidates. A federal judge blocked the law from going into effect last June.

Another federal appeals court earlier this month upheld a Texas law that prohibits social media companies from banning users because of their political views. NetChoice is petitioning the US Supreme Court to block this law. Court of Appeals rejects most of Florida’s social media law


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