Friday, December 09, 2022

Court of Appeals Rules Florida Laws on Social Media Unconstitutional

scheduled tribe. Petersburg, Fla. ( Associated Press) — Florida law intended to punish social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, finding companies that were charged by the GOP government a major victory. . Ron DeSantis who discriminates against conservative thinking.

A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded unanimously that DeSantis and the Republican-led Florida Legislature should ask social media companies how to do their jobs under the Constitution’s free speech guarantees. It was an excess.

“With minor exceptions, the government cannot tell any private person or entity what to say or how to say it,” said Kevin Newsom, an appointed circuit judge to former President Donald Trump. “We believe it is quite likely that social media companies – even the largest ones – are private actors whose rights are protected by the First Amendment.”

The ruling upholds a similar decision on legislation by a Florida federal district judge, which was signed by DeSantis in 2021. This was part of an overall conservative effort to portray social media companies as generally liberal in outlook and hostile to ideas outside that point of view. , especially from the political right.

“Some of these big, big companies in Silicon Valley are exercising a power over our population that really has no precedent in American history,” DeSantis said during a May 2021 bill-signing ceremony. “One of their major missions is to suppress ideas.”

Although the appeals panel ruled that the tech companies’ actions were protected, Judge Newsom wrote that Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and others “engaged in constitutionally protected expressive activity when they moderated the content broadcast on their platforms.” and curate.”

There was no immediate response to an email Monday afternoon from DeSantis’ press secretary or communications director on the decision. DeSantis is running for re-election this year and is eyeing a potential race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. He was the first governor to sign such a bill into law, although similar proposals have been made in other states.

One of them, in Texas, was allowed to take effect by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and the tech companies involved are asking for an emergency US Supreme Court review on whether to block it. No decision on that was issued immediately.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association, a non-profit group representing tech and communications companies, said the ruling represents a victory for Internet users and free speech in general — especially when it relates to potentially offensive content. .

“When a digital service takes action against problematic content on its site – whether extremism, Russian propaganda, or racism and abuse – it is exercising its right to free expression,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement. .

When enacted, the law would give Florida’s attorney general the authority to prosecute companies under the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. This would allow individual Floridians to sue social media companies for up to $100,000 if they believe they have been treated unfairly.

The bill targeted social media platforms that have more than 100 million monthly users, including online giants such as Twitter and Facebook. But lawmakers made an exception for The Walt Disney Company and their apps by involving the owners of that theme park, which would not be subject to the law.

The law would require large social media companies to publish standards for how it decides to “censor, deplatform and shadow ban”.

But the Court of Appeal struck down almost all the mandates of the law, except for a few lesser provisions of the law.

“Social media platforms use editorial judgment that is inherently expressive. When platforms choose to remove users or posts, prioritize content in audience feeds or search results, or approve violations of their Community Standards, they engage in First-Amendment-protected activity,” Newsom said. Wrote for the court.

Associated Press writers Mark Sherman in Washington and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee contributed to this story.


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