Tech business groups sue Florida’s new social media law

Two tech trade groups on Thursday filed a legal challenge against SB 7072, the scorching legislation sign by Governor Ron DeSantis this week who is promising heavy fines against tech companies who “de-platform” state political candidates by banning or suspending them. the legislation Also gives private Florida residents the ability to sue tech companies that break the law.

Calling the legislation a “blatant attack” on the First Amendment rights of private companies, the business groups urged a federal court to declare SB 7072 unconstitutional and inapplicable.

The lawsuit filed by NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association – both of which have Facebook, Google and Twitter as members – alleges that the law illegally requires tech companies to host content that they might otherwise prohibit under their platform policies.

“No one, not even someone who has paid a filing fee to run for office, has the First Amendment right to compel a private actor to make a speech on their private property,” it reads the complaint, which was filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for DeSantis, said in a statement that the government has a role to play in protecting consumers from claims of discrimination and unfair or deceptive business practices.

“This law falls under that authority to contain a powerful entity that overrides the free speech rights of individuals,” Pushaw said. “We have no comment on any specific legal action, but we have anticipated legal challenges. We are confident that this new legislation has a solid legal foundation and protects the constitutional rights of Floridians.”

CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement that by tying the hands of social media platforms to moderate their platforms, the law “threatens to make the internet a safe place for criminals, the disbelievers and the foreign agents, thus putting the Floridians in danger “.

Thursday’s complaint goes on to cite remarks by DeSantis and state lawmakers that allegedly showed the intent of the law was to “punish” social media platforms “specifically because lawmakers and governor n ‘dislike the perceived political and ideological views that these private companies are supposed to express through their content judgments. “

DeSantis’ Press release on the bill, the signature refers to a “dominant Silicon Valley ideology” and includes a statement by Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez blowing up the “big tech oligarchs,” which she accuses of promoting a “narrative radical left ”.

Republican officials have frequently accused tech platforms of censoring conservative views; Senior executives at major social media companies have all verbally denied any discrimination against right-wing political discourse.

Thursday’s lawsuit also targets provisions in SB 7072 exempting websites from theme park operators, a major industry in Florida. And he opposes the creation by law of an antitrust blacklist that automatically denies economic incentives and government procurement to companies that have been held accountable under federal or state antitrust law for the past three years. years. Companies can only be removed from the list after a decision by an administrative judge. (Tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have spent the past few years pushing back against allegations of anti-competitive conduct, and some, like Facebook and Google, are battling multiple antitrust lawsuits filed by state and federal officials. .)

“The law is crony capitalism disguised as consumer protection,” NetChoice vice president Carl Szabo said in a statement, adding that SB 7072 allows the state government to “pick winners and losers all over the place. clearly favoring a handful of powerful companies like Disney and Comcast. “

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