An appeals court has affirmed a lower court decision that ruled key provisions in a state law to crack down on social media “censorship” are unconstitutional.
The law became one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ priorities in the 2021 Legislative Session after Twitter and other prominent social media companies banned then-President Donald Trump and other conservatives from their platforms following the U.S. Capitol riot.
The law mandated social media companies post their terms of service, publish standards for handling issues like censorship, deplatforming and blocking users, and apply the standards consistently. Further, the law limited bans on political candidates to 14 days, after which they would face fines of $250,000 per day for statewide candidates or $25,000 per day for local candidates.
Though it was signed by DeSantis, lawyers representing Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetChoice quickly filed a federal lawsuit and a judge blocked it from ever going into effect.
The internet interest lobbying associations argued that the law infringes on platforms’ rights of freedom of speech, equal protection, and due process in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The new ruling, handed down by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upheld the lower court injunction against the law’s provisions abridging platforms’ editorial discretion. Under the court’s ruling, provisions including obligations regarding data and disclosure requirements, remain in force.
“This ruling means platforms cannot be forced by the government to disseminate vile, abusive and extremist content under penalty of law. This is good news for internet users, the First Amendment and free speech in a democracy,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said.
“When a digital service takes action against problematic content on its own site 一 whether extremism, Russian propaganda, or racism and abuse 一 it is exercising its own right to free expression. We will continue to fight for the First Amendment rights of digital services to engage in the editorial judgments they need to make to protect their users.”