Appeals Court Hands Gov. DeSantis a Loss
ATLANTA, Ga. — A Florida law intended to punish social media companies from allegedly barring conservative politicians from their platforms is unconstitutional, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
“Put simply, with minor exceptions, the government can’t tell a private person or entity what to say or how to say it,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom in the 67-page ruling.
But the ruling wasn’t a slam dunk for the social media platforms as the three-judge panel did allow other parts of the law — including banned users’ access to their data, a requirement for platforms to post their community guidelines and update users on changes — to remain intact.
The three Republican-appointed judges used the court opinion to reinforce that the First Amendment was intended to prevent the government from abridging its citizens’ speech, including private businesses.
“First—and this would be too obvious to mention if it weren’t so often lost or obscured in political rhetoric—platforms are private enterprises, not governmental (or even quasi-governmental) entities. No one has an obligation to contribute to or consume the content that the platforms make available,” Newsom wrote.
The law was implemented, in the words of the Act’s sponsor, as quoted in Gov. Ron DeSantis’s signing statement—to combat the “biased silencing” of “our freedom of speech as conservatives . . . by the ‘big tech’ oligarchs in Silicon Valley.”
In recent years other social media platforms that appeal to conservatives — including Trump’s own Truth Social, Parler and ProAmericaOnly, which the judges cited in their opinion — have cropped up as alternatives with less strict community guidelines.
Those community guidelines and algorithms of each company, which have the ability to bar users or prioritize content, are part of the companies’ free speech, according to the opinion.
“By engaging in this content moderation, the platforms develop particular market niches, foster different sorts of online communities, and promote various values and viewpoints,” the judges wrote.
Texas implemented a similar law last year that was more expansive, protecting all Texas residents from being barred from a platform.
NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association are plaintiffs in both these lawsuits. Chris Marchese, lawyer for NetChoice called the Texas law, “constitutionally rotten from top to bottom,” in a recent tweet.
The groups are trade associations that represent internet-based companies like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Google, which owns YouTube.
The Texas law was previously halted; however the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order to overturn the injunction, allowing the law to go into effect, in a 2-1 decision. The court did so without issuing a full written opinion, Marchese wrote on Twitter, in an “unprecedented, unexplained, and unfortunate order.”
The group has appealed the order from the Texas case to the Supreme Court.
Marchese and others representing tech companies celebrated Monday’s ruling on Florida’s law.
Computer & Communications Industry Association President Matt Schruers tweeted, “Today’s ruling makes clear that digital platforms are engaged in First Amend.-protected activity in administering their content moderation policies, and states cannot impose their own editorial views on this process.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody took consolation from the fact some of the law will remain intact, tweeting, “We are pleased the court recognized the state’s authority to rein in social media companies and upheld major portions of Florida’s law leading the way in doing so. We will continue to vigorously defend Florida’s authority to demand accountability from Big Tech.”
Madeline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bymaddiehughes
In The News
WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission is attempting to block Meta, formerly known as Facebook, from purchasing a virtual reality... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission is attempting to block Meta, formerly known as Facebook, from purchasing a virtual reality fitness application in what the commission says is the company’s quest to buy its way to the top. “Instead of competing on the merits, Meta is... Read More
GEORGETOWN, Del. — Twitter’s lawsuit will move forward in a five-day trial in October, Delaware Court of Chancery chancellor Kathaleen... Read More
GEORGETOWN, Del. — Twitter’s lawsuit will move forward in a five-day trial in October, Delaware Court of Chancery chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled Tuesday. The ruling was a win for Twitter as the company had requested an expedited trial in September while Elon Musk asked... Read More
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began to question Elon Musk about his potential attempt to pull out... Read More
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began to question Elon Musk about his potential attempt to pull out of his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter more than a month before he made it official. The questions came after a May tweet in which... Read More
NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Twitter slid more than 6% at the opening bell Monday after billionaire Elon Musk... Read More
NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Twitter slid more than 6% at the opening bell Monday after billionaire Elon Musk said that he was abandoning his $44 billion bid for the company and the social media platform vowed to challenge Musk in court to uphold the agreement. Musk... Read More
WASHINGTON — Elon Musk is officially pulling out of his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, according to a letter... Read More
WASHINGTON — Elon Musk is officially pulling out of his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, according to a letter his lawyer sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday. According to his letter, Musk is backing out because Twitter did not provide accurate user data.... Read More
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — As missed warning signs pile up in investigations of mass killings, New York state is rolling... Read More
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — As missed warning signs pile up in investigations of mass killings, New York state is rolling out a novel strategy to screen applicants for gun permits. People seeking to carry concealed handguns will be required to hand over their social media accounts... Read More