In a significant development two tech trade groups have filed a lawsuit against Florida over a new legislation that fines social media companies that ban political candidates, saying it violates free speech rights.
The lawsuit states that the bill signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this week on Monday, was unconstitutional. It was filed by internet lobbying groups Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetChoice. The groups’ members include Alphabet’s Google, Twitter and Facebook.
“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 NetChoice’s Vice President Carl Szabo. “The First Amendment protects social media platforms’ right to host and moderate content as they see fit for their business models and users.”
In a statement, Christina Pushaw, the spokeswoman for Republican DeSantis, said the governor’s office had no comment on any specific lawsuit but that it had anticipated legal challenges and was confident the legislation had a “strong legal basis,” while adding, “Big Tech is in some ways more powerful than government, and certainly less accountable. Free speech is a sacred right for all Americans”.
Florida is the first state to regulate how social media companies should moderate online content. The states’ new law also make it easier for authorities in the state of Florida, including its attorney general, to sue tech companies over claims that platforms have imposed content moderation on users unfairly or inconsistently.