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Clash over Florida’s social media censorship law continues in court

File photo of Gov. DeSantis discussing Florida's social media censorship law
File photo of Gov. DeSantis discussing Florida's social media censorship law

TALLAHASSSEE, Fla. – The state of Florida and organizations representing major tech companies squared off in federal court Monday as they hope to sway a judge in a dispute over the state’s social media censorship law.

In one corner, attorneys representing the state are making the case that the law, which carries fines as steep as $250,000 a day for social media companies that de-platform political candidates, should take effect as scheduled on July 1.

In the other corner, a group representing tech companies is making the case that the law as written would infringe on the companies’ constitutional rights.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a vocal supporter of the law, has been following the court case closely. He hopes the judge will recognize that some companies have grown too big to continue operating without some sort of check on their influence over public dialogue.

“You cannot treat these massive companies the same way you just treat a local private company down the street,” the governor said.

But NetChoice, the group suing the state on behalf of internet giants, doesn’t see it that way. The group holds that the new law violates companies’ First Amendment rights by limiting their ability to regulate content on their own platforms.

“We have a whole litany of cases that make crystal clear governments cannot force private businesses to say things they don’t want to say,” Carl Szabo, vice president of NetChoice, said Monday.

Federal law limits the authority of individual states to regulate social media companies, so the state may have to get creative with its legal arguments. But Szabo said none of those strategies will sidestep the constitutional issue at the heart of the case.

“Not only is this not a monopoly, even if it were the state would still lose,” Szabo said.

For his part, DeSantis has acknowledged the possibility of losing the legal battle. But even if the state is defeated in court, he hopes the rulings will give lawmakers a roadmap to tweak the law in the future so that way it can pass muster.

“These are huge, huge issues about our society and about how much power should a handful of companies be able to wield with really no accountability whatsoever,” the governor said.