Court of Appeals: Florida social media law unconstitutional

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida rule meant to punish social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment, a federal appeals court role topped Monday, delivering a major victory to companies that had been accused by GOP Governor Ron DeSantis of discriminating in the direction of conservative thinking.

A 3-judge panel of the Eleventh United States Court of Appeals based in Atlanta unanimously concluded that it was excessive for DeSantis and the Republican-led Florida Legislature to tell social media companies one easiest ways to conduct their work under the Structure. freedom of expression guaranteed.

“Put simply, with few exceptions, the government cannot tell any person or entity what to say or the proper way to say it,” said Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom, appointed by the former President Donald Trump, in the opinion. . “We argue that it is very likely that social media companies – even the largest ones – are personal actors whose rights are protected by the First Amendment.”

The ruling upholds an identical alternative by a select Florida federal district over the settlement, which was signed by DeSantis in 2021. It was part of a normal conservative effort to portray social media companies as often liberal in outlook and hostile to ideas outside of it. point of view, in particular political correctness.

“Some of these big, big companies in Silicon Valley wield an influence on our people that has virtually no precedent in American history,” DeSantis acknowledged during a bill signing ceremony in May 2021. “One of their main missions seems to be idea suppression.”

Nonetheless, the appeals panel concluded that the tech companies’ actions were protected, with Decide Newsom writing that Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and others are “engaged in a constitutionally protected exercise in expression once they have reasoned and organized the content they put out on their platforms.”

There was no quick response to emails Monday afternoon from DeSantis’ press secretary or communications director about the decision. DeSantis is working toward re-election this year and is considering a potential bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. He was the first governor to sign a bill like this into regulation, though related bills have been proposed in several states.

One, in Texas, has been cleared to go into effect by the US Circuit Court’s Fifth Appellate Roll, and the tech companies involved are seeking an emergency court ruling Supreme Court of the United States on whether to contain it. No alternative on this subject was immediately launched.

The Laptop & Communications Business Affiliation, a nonprofit representing technology and communications companies, acknowledged that the decision represents a victory for Internet users and freedom of expression in general – in particular because it concerns content potentially offensive.

“When a digital service opposes problematic content on its own website – whether it is extremism, Russian propaganda or racism and abuse – it is exercising its own right to free expression,” CCIA Chairman Matt Schruers said in a press release. .

As passed, the settlement would give authorized competent authorities in Florida the power to prosecute businesses under the state’s deceptive and unfair marketing practices law. It will also allow some Floridians to sue social media companies for up to $100,000 if they truly feel they have been treated unfairly.

The bill centered on social media platforms that have more than 100 million monthly customers, which include online giants like Twitter and Facebook. But lawmakers created an exception for the Walt Disney Co. and their apps at the same time that theme park owners wouldn’t be subject to the regulations.

The regulations would require major social media companies to post information about how they decide to “censor, deplatform and ban shadow”.

However, the appeals court docket dismissed almost all of the settlement’s mandates, save for a few lesser provisions throughout the settlement.

“Social media platforms form editorial judgment that is inherently expressive. When platforms choose to remove customers or posts, deprioritize content in viewer feeds or search results, or sanction violations of their group requirements, they are interacting within the exercise protected by the first amendment,” Newsom wrote for the courtroom filing.


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