A nonprofit representing communications and technology firms is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Florida’s social media law after a lower court ruled the law unconstitutional.
The petition from the Computer & Communications Industry Association and co-plaintiff NetChoice comes after a similar petition from the state calling for a ruling on the law, which imposes new rules on online platforms.
The law would apply to companies such as Twitter, Google and Meta and would limit their ability to remove content or users that violate their policies. Gov. Ron 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.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled unanimously in May that the law violated First Amendment protections on speech. But other lower court rulings have differed, such as in Texas, where a similar social media law was upheld.
The petitioners challenged the Florida law in 2021 after its passage and enactment, arguing it infringes on digital companies’ freedom of speech. The law sought to curb what was seen during the 2020 election cycle and following months as an increase in social media bans, commonly referred to as “deplatforming,” over what GOP leaders claimed was censorship based on anti-conservative bias.
Targeted tech companies have argued Florida’s law would compel such digital services to disseminate dangerous content online in violation of their standards and policies.
“The First Amendment means that governments cannot pick winners and losers in the marketplace of ideas. Florida’s law violates a well-established Constitutional principle that the government cannot dictate what content private entities distribute, and particularly not to ensure that a favored viewpoint is heard. As more governments line up to control online speech, it is vital that the Supreme Court hear this case to uphold principles of free expression,” CCIA President Matt Schruers wrote in a statement.
“We have every reason to believe the Justices will see the threat the Florida law presents to long standing principles of U.S. democracy and agree to hear this case.”
In a joint motion filed this summer, CCIA, NetChoice and the Florida defendants agreed the case warranted Supreme Court review because it presented “first-of-its-kind” questions about government control and questioned whether states can regulate social media content.
The groups’ petition cites conflicting court decisions on such social media regulation. It also argues the Florida law “abridges the targeted companies’ First Amendment right to exercise editorial judgment over what content to disseminate on their websites.”
CCIA represents a broad cross section of communications and technology firms and works to promote open markets, systems and networks.