Florida and big tech face off in federal court

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 3:16 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The state and organizations representing big tech companies laid out their arguments in federal court Thursday hoping to convince a judge to either block or allow the state’s new social media censorship law to go into effect.

The Governor is watching the case closely and has said no matter what the judge rules, the case won’t end here. Governor Ron DeSantis described this initial phase of the legal battle as “A case of first impression.” DeSantis hopes the judge will find social media companies have grown too large to continue business as usual.

“You cannot treat these massive companies the same way you just treat a local private company down the street,” said DeSantis.

But on the other hand, social media giants argue the new law violates their first amendment rights by limiting their ability to police content on their platforms.

“This is not a case of first impressions. I mean we have a whole litany of cases, that make crystal clear, governments cannot force private businesses to say things they don’t want to say,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President of NetChoice.

Understanding federal law limits state authority to regulate social media companies, lawmakers attempted to leverage control where they could.

“With basically [the] Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. There’s also transparency provisions,” said DeSantis.

But tech giants argue the creative legal strategy doesn’t circumvent the constitutional issue at the heart of the case.

“Not only is this not a monopoly, even if it were, the state would still lose,” said Szabo.

DeSantis acknowledged the possibility of losing this first battle but said the war is far from over.

“These are huge, huge issues about our society, and about how much power should a handful of companies be able to wield with really no accountability whatsoever,” said DeSantis.

A ruling is expected before Thursday when the law is slated to take effect. Even if the state ultimately loses, DeSantis said he’s hopeful rulings throughout the legal battle will provide state lawmakers with a road map to tweak the law in the future in a way where it passes constitutional muster.