Florida’s Big Tech censorship bill could be blocked before it goes into effect

FILE (Matt Rourke, Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s new law against social media censorship could be blocked before it even goes into effect.

NetChoice, the group suing on behalf of internet giants, has asked a federal judge to put the law on hold as their lawsuit moves through the courts.

NetChoice hopes a federal judge will stop the social media censorship law before its July 1 effective date.

“This is government-compelled speech,” said NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Zsabo.

Zsabo argued tech companies would immediately lose advertisers and users if they are stripped of the ability to police their platforms.

“Look at some of the boycotts you saw in the past when there was abhorrent content running alongside advertisers’ products,” said Zsabo.

The issue at the heart of the case is whether tech companies’ First Amendment rights are infringed by the new state law.

“Government can’t come in and tell your network what type of news to cover, what types of stories to promote,” said Zsabo. “And likewise it can’t come in and tell private businesses like Facebook, YouTube, Etsy or Reddit the type of content that they have to host.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans have made the case that Big Tech censorship is infringing on the free speech rights of Floridians.

“We want them to treat Floridians equally and give all of our Florida citizens the opportunity to participate in the new virtual public square,” said bill sponsor State Senator Ray Rodriguez in a May interview.

The Supreme Court has ruled freedom of speech does not include the right to incite actions that would harm others or make or distribute obscene materials.

The Governor’s Office declined to comment specifically on the pending lawsuit, but sent us a statement on the law itself saying in part: “It is recognized that government has a role in protecting consumers against discrimination and deceptive/unfair trade practices, and this law is within that authority to rein in a powerful entity that oversteps individuals’ free speech rights.”

Zsabo acknowledged the difficulty tech giants face when attempting to evenly apply their community standards.

He also empathized with the frustration felt by conservatives on the issue, but said if a user is wrongly deplatformed even without the new state law, the state Attorney General already has the ability to sue on their behalf.