A pair of technology trade groups are pushing back against Governor Ron DeSantis after he signed a measure (SB 7072) on Monday that aims to block companies like Facebook and Twitter from censoring politicians from their platforms. A top priority for DeSantis during the 2021 Legislative Session, the new law gives the Florida Elections Commission the power to fine media companies up to $250,000 a day for “de-platforming” any candidate for statewide office and $25,000 per day for de-platforming candidates for non-statewide offices.
But today, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), in partnership with NetChoice, filed a federal lawsuit in Tallahassee on Thursday. The lawsuit alleges that the new law violates the Constitution, noting that it infringes on the First Amendment “free speech” rights of online businesses – the same rights that DeSantis and Republican lawmakers claim the law seeks to protect.
“U.S. free speech principles protect the public from government penalties for speech,” said CCIA President Matt Schruers. “They do not protect elected officials from the speech choices of the public. Forcing a company to publish government officials’ speech is more characteristic of last-century dictatorships than 21st-century democracies.”
The lawsuit argues that “rather than preventing what it calls ‘censorship,’ the Act does the exact opposite: it empowers government officials in Florida to police the protected editorial judgment of online businesses that the State disfavors and whose perceived political viewpoints it wishes to punish…The Act is a frontal assault on the First Amendment and an extraordinary intervention by the government in the free marketplace of ideas that would be unthinkable for traditional media, book sellers, lending libraries, or newsstands.”
The law, which is set to take effect on July 1, has received backlash from several groups who say that legislation, while well-intended, does more harm than good.
One of those who opposed SB 7072 is the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC), which voiced its disapproval of the signage earlier this week. FSHCC released a statement following today’s lawsuit, adding that they are ‘confident’ that the courts will remedy the new law.
“The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC) appreciates NetChoice filing a lawsuit against SB 7072 – signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this week. This legislation forces private companies to allow users to post speech against company guidelines. Under the guise of holding social media companies accountable and preventing them from “de-platforming” candidates for office, SB 7072 is a dangerous step towards a state-run Internet. The FSHCC opposes SB 7072 as it violates businesses’ First Amendment rights and fosters an environment for government to cherry-pick winners and losers online,” said President of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Julio Fuentes.
“SB7072 was not signed with consumers in mind. The law is a clear violation of a businesses’ First Amendment rights and NetChoice has done the business community a service with today’s filing. The law is nothing more than an act of politicking and I am confident the Court will side with protecting the rights our founders saw as critical to our Democracy.”
The CCIA is an international, not-for-profit association representing a broad cross section of computer, communications and Internet industry firms. NetChoice is an association of 36 companies representing a broad cross section of the tech industry, including Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.