Florida takes fight over controversial social media law to U.S. Supreme Court

Law requires social media companies to host 3rd-party content, puts limits on what they can remove

Law requires social media companies to host 3rd-party content, puts limits on what they can remove

A lawsuit over a controversial Florida law is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s centered on SB 7072, branded as an anti-censorship law, that was passed and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021. It requires social media companies to host third-party content and puts limits on what sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can remove for violations.

The question, according to attorneys, is whether the state can force a tech company to host content that the company deems inappropriate.

The law was passed on the claim that social media companies had been suppressing conservative ideas.

The company who sued to block the law said even if tech companies were doing that -- that’s their constitutional right.

At the signing of the bill, DeSantis said: “If big tech censors enforce rules inconsistently to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”

The law allowed the state government to compel social media sites to host third-party content and placed state limits on how and for what reason a site can remove content.

The law was challenged in court by NetChoice, a consortium of some of the biggest names in tech including Google, Amazon, TikTok and Twitter -- among many others.

Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, is a professor at George Mason University.

“This law represents government compelled speech, which is a gross violation of the First Amendment,” Szabo told News4JAX. “And likewise, it will force websites to host lawful but awful content, content that we don’t want, like abuse of animals content, like child grooming content, like terrorist recruitment.”

And the courts agreed.

A district judge ruled the law is unconstitutional and when it was appealed to a higher court, the appeals judge ruled the same way.

On Wednesday, the state of Florida appealed the case one more time -- to the U.S. Supreme Court, which now has a majority of conservative-leaning judges.

Szabo, who identifies as a conservative Republican, said that his is the conservative, constitutionally sound argument.

“At the end of the day, conservative principles are centered on letting a private business decide what’s best for its users and its customers,” Szabo said. “And that’s what the First Amendment says too, ultimately. This law will be like requiring Chick-fil-A to be open on Sunday, even though they don’t want to be. And that’s what we’re talking about right here. Is the state of Florida trying to force websites to host content that they don’t want, their users don’t want? And they’re doing what’s best for their business.”

It should be noted that DeSantis has two Facebook pages, two Twitter accounts, and a YouTube channel that are all updated regularly.

About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.