Two Big Tech lobbying groups have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Florida’s new “deplatforming” law’s constitutionality.
The bill, which was passed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 1, makes it illegal to deplatform state political candidates on Twitter and Facebook, and imposes fines of $250,000 per day on anyone who does so.
It would cost the company $25,000 per day to eliminate more local candidates.
The bill also mandates that tech companies notify users seven days in advance if they are about to be banned and give them the opportunity to correct the problem. Suspensions of up to 14 days would be permissible.
The law, according to DeSantis, protects citizens from online censorship.
The lawsuit, filed by NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, asked the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida to overturn the law, claiming that it “infringes on the rights to freedom of speech, equal protection, and due process protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” and that it goes beyond the state’s authority to regulate interstate commerce. The suit also claims that it violates the Communications Decency Act.
The groups argue that the law is a “blatant attack” on the tech giants’ efforts to moderate content from a long list of “harmful, offensive, or unlawful material,” such as pornography, terrorist incitement, false propaganda and conspiracy theories, personal privacy violations, and even online scams.
Other companies, particularly those with large theme parks in Florida, such as Disney, are exempt from the “burdensome restrictions,” according to the report.
“Rather than preventing what it calls ‘censorship,’ the act does the exact opposite: it empowers government officials in Florida to police the protected editorial judgment of online businesses that the state disfavors and whose perceived political viewpoints it wishes to punish,” the suit said.
The law is also unconstitutional, according to legal experts. A. Michael Froomkin, a law professor at the University of Miami, told Wired magazine, “This is so obviously unconstitutional, you wouldn’t even put it on an exam.”