Florida’s attorney general filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn a May decision by a federal court that had struck down major parts of a Florida law banning social media companies from deplatforming political candidates for violating the First Amendment.
The May decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals conflicts with a ruling last week by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a similar Texas social media law.
Setting up potential ruling: If the Supreme Court agrees to take up the appeal, it would mark the first time the highest court will have weighed in on the underlying issues at play in the 11th Circuit case as to whether social media platforms’ handling of user content is protected by the First Amendment.
Florida — as well as Texas — is controlled by Republicans who enacted and sought to enforce laws that target social media companies for allegedly “censoring” conservative viewpoints and banning politicians like former President Donald Trump for violating policies against the incitement of violence on Jan. 6, 2021.
Florida’s defense: The appeal from Ashley Moody, Florida’s attorney general, defends the constitutionality of the Florida law, S.B. 7072. She said in the appeal that the 11th Circuit ruling “strips States of their historic power to protect their citizens’ access to information, implicating questions of nationwide importance.”
Murky future of platforms: Tech trade groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represent Facebook, Twitter and Google, had sued over both the Florida and Texas laws.
The groups say the laws would drastically change the way the platforms they represent operate by restricting their ability to police their platforms and potentially forcing them to carry hate speech and extremist content.
Tech backs SCOTUS appeal: CCIA supports Florida’s appeal to the Supreme Court though because it also wants the highest court to weigh in on the law’s constitutionality. The Florida law is currently not in effect while both the attorney general and the tech groups seek additional review.
“There is consensus that this question — whether states can compel digital services to disseminate content inconsistent with their policies — is one that should be heard by the Supreme Court,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in an email. “While Florida’s social media law is a threat to the First Amendment and to democratic principles, we do agree that the case calls for additional review.”
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