Florida’s social media law was deemed unconstitutional by an appellate court.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
After Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law in May 2021 that potentially punishes social media companies that remove “conservative ideas” from their networks, a federal appeals court deemed the law an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment on Monday, May 23, 2022.
The new law would have permitted the state to fine large social media companies $250,000 a day if they remove the account of a statewide political candidate and impose a fine of $25,000 a day if they remove the account of someone running for a local office.
The law was to take effect July 1, 2021, but it was blocked by an injunction from U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle just before the law took effect. Following Judge Hinkle’s ruling, the Governor’s office planned to appeal the injunction at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that DeSantis and the Republican-led Florida Legislature were overreaching by wanting to control how social media companies, like Facebook and Twitter, conduct their business under the Constitution's First Amendment, which protects the freedom of speech.
"Put simply, with minor exceptions, the government cannot tell a private person or entity what to say or how to say it," said Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom. "We hold that it is substantially likely that social media companies — even the biggest ones — are private actors whose rights the First Amendment protects."
Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act says internet companies cannot be taken to court for removing material that is obscene, violent, or “objectionable.”
Sources: An appeals court finds Florida's social media law unconstitutional : NPR; Judge blocks Florida law aimed at punishing social media | AP News; Florida Law Seeks to Control Large Social Media Companies (voanews.com)