Ron DeSantis Anti-Censorship Bill: Groups Representing Tech Companies Sue Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference before the 2019 MLS All-Star Game at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla., July 31, 2019. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

Two industry groups representing tech companies Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google have sued the state of Florida over a law which bans them from “deplatforming” politicians who express objectionable views using their services.

The groups have alleged that the legislation, which was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis and takes effect July 1, violates the platforms’ constitutional First Amendment right to determine which voices it allows to make use of their services. Netchoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) filed the lawsuit on May 27 and are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions to stop the bill’s implementation.

DeSantis and Florida Republicans have argued that the law will protect consumers, particularly conservatives, from censorship by silicon valley companies that do not share their politics. It allows Florida to penalize a company with a $250,000 fine for “willfully deplatforming” political candidates and allows private citizens to sue the tech companies for up to $100,o00 if it is found that they broke the law.

The lawsuit refers to the legislation as a “smorgasbord of constitutional violations” and claims that it limits the companies’ first amendment liberties.

“These unprecedented restrictions are a blatant attack on a wide range of content-moderation choices that these private companies have to make on a daily basis to protect their services, users, advertisers, and the public at large from a variety of harmful, offensive, or unlawful material,” the lawsuit states.

The CCIA legal action comes as the debate over tech censorship divides conservatives. Free market advocates argue that the federal or state governments cannot constitutionally restrict a social media company from imposing its own content moderation policies or mandate that it operate in a certain way. Some supporters of bills like the one spearheaded by DeSantis insist that social media platforms are de facto free speech zones and public forums, domains where the government can enforce protections for private users.

The Florida governor defended the law as a safeguard for ordinary people to freely exercise their freedom of thought on the internet.

“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 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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