A federal appeals court is keeping Florida’s social media law – intended to address the platform’s alleged bias against conservatives – on hold, after a three-judge panel ruled it was ” essentially likely” that it violates the First Amendment.
The law, signed and championed by state Governor Ron DeSantis, targets the content moderation practices of Facebook, Twitter and other sites because it would prohibit the companies from removing the platform from political candidates and rank or prioritize posts about a candidate. It would also prohibit platforms from deleting anything published by a “journalistic enterprise” based on its content, the judges noted.
“We further conclude that it is highly likely that one of the law’s particularly onerous disclosure provisions – which would require covered platforms to provide a ‘thorough rationale’ for every content moderation decision they make — violates the First Amendment,” Judge Kevin Newsom wrote in the notice. (Read it here).
The ruling upholds a lower court ruling and an argument made by social media companies that the First Amendment protects their decisions about what to allow on their sites.
In his ruling, Newsom appeared to be trying to remind the public that social media platforms are “private companies, not governmental (or even quasi-governmental) entities.”
“No one is under any obligation to contribute or consume the content the platforms make available,” they wrote. “And correlatively, while the Constitution protects citizens from government efforts to restrict their access to social media, no one has a vested right to force a platform to allow them to contribute or consume social media content. “
Newsom was appointed to the federal appeals court by President Donald Trump, who has been a frequent critic of social media platforms. Trump launched Truth Social, a Twitter rival, in part because of his claims that the platform was biased against right-wing voices.
Newsom also wrote that the rigs aren’t just “dumb pipes”.
“It’s not just servers and hard drives storing information or hosting blogs that anyone can access, and it’s not internet service providers reflexively beaming data from point A to point B. “, he wrote.
Meanwhile, internet platforms have appealed to the Supreme Court in their effort to suspend a Texas law. A Texas federal appeals court lifted an injunction on the law earlier this month. Texas law prohibits major platforms from censoring users based on their views.