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U.S. appeals court rejects most of Florida social media law

Stock Markets May 23, 2022 06:43PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Facebook, Google and Twitter logos are seen in this combination photo from Reuters files. REUTERS

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) -Most of a Florida law that sought to stop social media companies from restricting users' political speech violates the companies' free speech rights and cannot be enforced, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday, agreeing with a lower court.

However, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived a part of the law requiring companies like Meta Platforms' Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc's Google and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) to disclose the standards they use to moderate content on their platforms.

The unanimous decision was authored by Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom, who was appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump.

The 11th Circuit ruled that the parts of the law concerning political speech violated social media companies' First Amendment right to decide what to publish. However, it said requiring them to disclose their standards likely did not, ordering the lower court to reconsider that issue.

Bryan Griffin, a spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, called the decision "stupefying" and said the governor's office was considering appeal. DeSantis signed the law in May 2021.

NetChoice, an industry group including Facebook, Google and Twitter that had sued to challenge the law, noted the U.S. Constitution's protections when asked for comment.

"The First Amendment protects platforms and their right to moderate content as they see fit - and the government can't force them to host content they don't want," NetChoice Vice President Carl Szabo said in a statement.

DeSantis, a Republican, previously said the law was needed to prevent "censorship" by "Big Tech," pointing to Trump's removal by Twitter and Facebook in January 2021. The companies cited Trump's praise for his supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol after he lost the 2020 presidential election as a reason for the bans.

The Florida law would fine social media companies that ban political candidates. A federal judge last June blocked the law from taking effect.

Another federal appeals court earlier this month upheld a Texas law prohibiting social media companies from banning users for their political views. NetChoice is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block that law.

U.S. appeals court rejects most of Florida social media law
 

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Comments (5)
Fernando Saldanha
Fernando Saldanha May 24, 2022 6:34AM ET
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Admittedly not an expert on the subject I find it odd that the right of a corporation to censor things it disagrees which is considered a right to free speech. It doesn't get more Orwellian than that. One obvious corollary of the court's decision is that the corporations should be legally responsible for anything they publish. But of course this will not happen.
Fernando Saldanha
Fernando Saldanha May 24, 2022 6:34AM ET
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"disagrees with", not "disagrees which"
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader May 23, 2022 3:08PM ET
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john hill according to past supreme court rulings corporations have the right to free speech . your argument makes no sense.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 23, 2022 2:19PM ET
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GOP authoritarians lose another one. There was a time when the GOP believed in free enterprise (and morality, and the law, and honesty...). Their obsession with the perceived culture wars is making them ineffective and kooky.
John Hill
John Hill May 23, 2022 2:19PM ET
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The courts are acting as if a publisher or platform is an entity that can make a decision without human input. it is human input that is determined to be speech. not a corporate entity such as a publisher or platform which has no ability to determine the intent of speech without human input.
Robert Ivan
Robert Ivan May 23, 2022 2:01PM ET
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So are they publishers or platforms? They can't be both and only be held to standards that benefit them.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader May 23, 2022 2:01PM ET
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yes they can legally hold an opinion that is predicted to benefit them just look at Fox news ....
Don Getty
Don Getty May 23, 2022 2:01PM ET
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Ac Tektrader  technically they should now be know as Fox Views because most of what they do is neither unbias or true
 
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