Tech groups file federal lawsuit against Florida’s new social media law

Lawsuit alleges Florida legislation is a violation of free speech

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Two technology organizations have joined together to sue Florida over the legislation targeting social media companies Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law this week.

NetChoice, a nonprofit, along with the Computer and Communications Industry Association filed suit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee.

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The lawsuit alleges Florida’s new social media law signed by DeSantis Monday, which requires social media companies to disclose their processes when censoring social media posts, is a violation of freedom of speech, equal protection and due process protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Florida Republican lawmakers argue the law protects against the same violations when platforms such as Facebook and Twitter ban users or censor their posts.

Under the new law that takes effect July 1, Florida can fine large social media companies $250,000 a day if they remove an account of a statewide political candidate, and $25,000 a day if they remove an account of someone running for a local office.

“By constraining digital services’ ability to fight bad actors online, this law threatens to make the Internet a safe space for criminals, miscreants, and foreign agents, putting Floridians at risk,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement. “Gov. DeSantis is correct that this is a free speech issue: a digital service that declines to host harmful content is exercising its own First Amendment rights.”

The CCIA trade group includes online businesses “that share the goal of promoting and protecting free speech and free enterprise on the Internet,” according to court documents.

“We cannot stand idly by as Florida’s lawmakers push unconstitutional bills into law that bring us closer to state-run media and a state-run internet,” vice president and general counsel at NetChoice Carl Szabo said in a news release.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include State Attorney General Ashley Moody, deputy secretary of business operations of the Florida Department of Management Services Patrick Gillespie and four Florida elections commissioners: Joni Poitier, John Hayes, Jason Allen and Kymberlee Smith.