A court of appeals on Monday upheld a block on major provisions in Florida’s controversial social media law that would bar companies from banning politicians, siding with tech industry groups that oppose the measure.
The 11th Circuit’s unanimous 3-0 decision to block most provisions in the law comes as the tech industry awaits a decision from the Supreme Court on whether to block a similar law that went into effect in Texas amid an ongoing case in lower courts about its legality.
The 11th Circuit ruled that the law would undermine the First Amendment rights held by social media platforms, since they are private companies.
“Not in their wildest dreams could anyone in the Founding generation have imagined Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or TikTok. But ‘whatever the challenges of applying the Constitution to ever-advancing technology, the basic principles of freedom of speech and the press, like the First Amendment’s command, do not vary when a new and different medium for communication appears,” the court wrote in an opinion.
But the court is lifting a block on some provisions of the law, including one that would require social media platforms to allow deplaformed users to access their own data stored on the platform’s servers for at least 60 days.
The court also pushed back on Florida’s argument that the platforms are operating as “common carriers,” a similar argument that Republicans in Texas are leading with to push their law forward.
“Social-media platforms have never acted like common carriers,” the court wrote.
“While it’s true that social-media platforms generally hold themselves open to all members of the public, they require users, as preconditions of access, to accept their terms of service and abide by their community standards,” the opinion continued.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) said she is “pleased” that the court’s decision upheld part of the law.
“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,” Moody tweeted.
The decision is in contrast to one the 5th Circuit made a couple of weeks ago, lifting a block on the Texas law as the case led by NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) makes its way through lower courts.
The industry groups are also behind the case against the Florida law and cheered the 11th Circuit’s ruling on Monday.
“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 in a statement.
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