Tech Industry Groups Are Suing Florida Over New Social Media Rules

The tech groups NetChoice and CCIA are filing a lawsuit πŸ“œ against Florida over its new laws regulating social media networks. The two organizationsβ€”which represent larger online business such as Intel, Google, and various othersβ€”claim the senate bill breaches the constitutional rights of private companies.

The bill seeks to moderate how large social media apps and websites can restrict content from their users. The tech groups are requesting the court to prevent the new regulations from taking effect, calling it a direct attack βš”οΈ on the First Amendment. They argue that the bill clashes with both constitutional protections and Section 230 rules. Here’s the full scoop. 

What Is SB 7072?

Florida Senate Bill 7072 is a new law that was signed πŸ–‹οΈ by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this week. It enforces fines on online platforms and websites if political candidates vying for public office are banned or censored. These fines can amount to up to $250,000 per day.

The bill makes it illegal for social media platforms to ban 🚫 any Florida politicians or “journalistic enterprises.” It also allows users to sue if they believe they were banned without sufficient reason and requires platforms as an “opt-out” option for sorting algorithm. Fines for breaking any of these requirements can range up to $100,000 per claim. 

The bill also establishes an “antitrust violater blacklist” that bans πŸ”¨ companies from doing business with public entities in Florida. Any online business accused of breaching antitrust law will be added and prohibited from doing business with Florida. The state Attorney General could potentially override the list to protect favored businesses and intimidate others to comply.

The law notably excludes businesses that operate 🎒 theme parks, such as Disney and Comcast Universal.

Tech Companies Fight Back

Tech groups NetChoice and CCIA have filed a lawsuit to fight SB 7072. They argue that the bill clashes with constitutional protections as well as Section 230.

The lawsuit accuses SB 7072 of breaching the First Amendment by forcing tech platforms to display speech πŸ—£οΈ and content that they have the constitutional right to moderate. According to the complaint, private businesses have the right to determine what type of content they display.

“As private businesses, Plaintiffs’ members have the right to decide what content is appropriate for their sites and platforms,” the complaint says. “The Act requires members to display and prioritize user-generated content that runs counter to their terms, policies, and business practices; content that will likely offend and repel their users and advertisers; and even content that is unlawful, dangerous to public health and national security, and grossly inappropriate for younger audiences.” 

The suit argues that forcing platforms to display and focus on content πŸ“± that goes against their terms of service likely to anger users and advertisers. 

The lawsuit further claims that Florida’s lawmakers and Gov. DeSantis devised the bill to threaten 🀬 social media platforms whose policies they don’t agree with. The lawmakers allegedly added the exception for theme parks to avoid conflict πŸ₯Ί with big companies such as Disney and Comcast.

Why Are Disney and Comcast Exempt?

The bill specifically excludes “any information service, system, internet search engine, or access software provider operated by a compny that owns and operates” a theme park or large entertainment complex. 

According to Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the exemption for businesses that operate theme parks is necessary to protect the Disney+ streaming service. Ingoglia said Florida’s economy benefits πŸ’΅ from the Disney World park in Orlando. Disney’s park provides a significant amount of tax revenue for the state’s economy, which depends on tourism revenue.

The lawsuit filed by tech groups argues that this exemption breaches the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by unfairly exempting businesses such as Disney and Comcast.

What’s Next?

SB 7072 calls for drastic changes to how social media platforms operate in Florida. These platforms must now alter their content moderation terms to avoid prosecution and hefty fines.

Tech companies are obviously not happy with the decision, and critics are calling the bill’s terms unconstitutional. Supporters argue that it prevents the deplatforming of users based on political views. They claim that social networks have become modern-day town squares πŸ“£ and spaces for public discussion.

The good news for critics is that since SB 7072 is state law, federal courts can override it if they find that it clashes with the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.