A federal judge blocked a law signed in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis that allowed people to sue social networks for censorship and fine them up to $250,000 each day that the accounts of campaigning politicians were suspended.
On Wednesday, June 30, Northern District of Florida Judge Robert L. Hinkle, through a preliminary injunction, blocked the state from enforcing nearly all parts of the law, arguing, “Balancing the exchange of ideas between private speakers is not a legitimate government interest.”
According to the New York Post, the controversy of DeSantis’ law lies in the fact that the law exempts Internet platforms “operated by a company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex,” and that it only targets companies that bill more than $100 million annually, clearly targeting Silicon Valley giants Facebook and Twitter.
However, Facebook and Twitter are two of the biggest and most important social media where many people go for information, not the same case for a theme park like Disney World. Added to the fact that both Silicon Valley companies have unleashed a war against conservative voices, with the case of censoring former President Donald Trump being the most high-profile.
“[The law] discriminates on its face among otherwise-identical speakers: between social-media providers that do or do not meet the legislation’s size requirements and are or are not under common ownership with a theme park. The legislation does not survive strict scrutiny,” the judge wrote in his ruling, drawing a comparison between companies that have actively and selectively censored to one dedicated to the entertainment of children and families.
“We plan to immediately appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals,” said DeSantis’ Press Secretary Christina Pushaw. “Gov. DeSantis continues to fight for freedom of speech and against Big Tech’s discriminatory censorship.”
The case could very well end up in the Supreme Court if the appellate court upholds Judge Hinkle’s ruling.
The case reached federal court after two technology trade groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association – representing Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, PayPal, TikTok, Airbnb, and a list of other companies—described the law as a violation of the First Amendment and a step toward a dystopian, government-controlled Internet.
“We cannot stand idly by as Florida’s lawmakers push unconstitutional bills into law that bring us closer to state-run media and a state-run internet,” said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice. “By weakening the First Amendment rights of some, Florida weakens the First Amendment rights of all.”
However, the concept of the Florida governor’s law does not seek government authority to regulate or control speech on the Internet but rather to penalize companies that censor politicians who do not share the left-wing, progressive ideology of Silicon Valley. There are dozens of examples of such instances.
“Any Floridian can block any candidate they don’t want to know about, and that’s a right that belongs to every citizen, not something for big tech companies to decide,” the governor’s press team clarified, explaining the scope of the law.
The issue of the immunity that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides to social networks has been a topic of debate between conservatives and Democrats who, as censorship of Big Tech tends to favor leftist ideology or progressivism, Democrats have not been involved or have been against modifying the legal protection that these companies currently enjoy.
In what was a landmark ruling in the U.S. judicial system, the Texas Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that victims of sexual exploitation who were ‘recruited’ through Facebook will be able to sue the company for allowing their traffickers to use the platform not only to deceive them but to profit from them.
If the lawsuits are successful and Facebook has to compensate these victims, perhaps both Twitter and Facebook will be stricter when it comes to combating human trafficking and not just make sure to censor conservative ideas.