Tech groups ask feds to stop deplatforming bill from kicking in next month

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Lawmakers say they wanted to protect users' speech. Big Tech says it violates their own speech.

Washington-based tech groups are asking a federal court to pump the brakes on Florida’s law to limit the powers of Big Tech.

That act (SB 7072) is set to take effect on July 1. But lawyers representing the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetChoice, two internet interest lobbying associations that partner with Twitter and Google and others, asked the Northern District of Florida to halt the measure from kicking in.

The law will require social media companies to post their terms of service with standards for handling issues like censoring, deplatforming and blocking users, and apply the standards consistently.

CCIA and NetChoice filed a lawsuit last week arguing the law is a violation of free speech. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure earlier that week, arguing social media disproportionately punishes conservatives.

“By binding the hands of digital services fighting dangerous content online, this law would give free rein to bad actors ranging from anti-American extremists to online predators,” said CCIA President Matt Schruers. “At the same time, when a digital service decides that Nazi political candidates are unwelcome on its platform, it is exercising its free speech rights, and this law violates that Constitutional protection. That is why we filed this motion this week.”

A preliminary injunction stops the law from taking effect while the state and tech groups litigate it, which NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo said would protect social media groups’ First Amendment rights.

“Until the court strikes this law down as unconstitutional, breaking the balance between free expression and online safety is simply not the answer,” he said. “Users and advertisers don’t want to see awful but lawful content on their feeds and the constitution prohibits Florida’s government from compelling private actors to host this harmful and dangerous speech.”

DeSantis named the bill a priority ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session after Twitter and other prominent social media companies banished then-President Donald Trump and other conservatives from their platforms following the U.S. Capitol riot.

DeSantis unveiled the proposal days after Trump left office and moved to Florida full-time. While the connection to the former President is clear, the Governor called it a bill for everyday Floridians.

That didn’t stop him from elaborating on the Trump connection when pressed by a reporter after signing the bill at Florida International University.

“When you deplatform the President of the United States, but you let Ayatollah (AliKhamenei talk about killing Jews, that is wrong,” DeSantis said.

In a statement to Florida Politics last week, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said the Governor’s Office would not comment on specific lawsuits, but railed against social media for silencing users “for questioning Silicon Valley orthodoxy.”

CCIA and NetChoice filed the case in the Northern District of Florida. The case is assigned to Judge Robert Hinkle.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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