Chris Lieberman, FISM News
Eleven state attorneys general have joined in a lawsuit supporting a Florida law aimed at curbing censorship from big tech companies.
State Bill 7072, or the Stop Social Media Censorship Act, prohibits social media companies from de-platforming political candidates and news organizations. The Florida Election Commission will now fine companies $250,000 for de-platforming candidates seeking statewide office and $25,000 for de-platforming other civilians. The law also allows for private citizens to sue social media companies for damages if they feel they have been unfairly censored.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in May, declaring, “We took action to ensure that ‘We the People’ — real Floridians across the Sunshine State — are guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites. Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in Cuba and Venezuela. If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”
The response from big tech was swift, with two tech trade groups filing a lawsuit in May to block the law. Members of these trade groups include Facebook, Twitter, and Google. The lawsuit alleged that the Florida law violated the First Amendment by restricting tech companies’ ability to moderate content on their own platform, a right that is also protected in federal law Section 230. In June, a federal judge concurred, issuing a preliminary injunction blocking the law from going into effect.
Last Wednesday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall joined attorney generals from Texas, Alabama, Alsask, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentuckky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, and South Carolina in Florida’s fight to appeal the federal judge’s ruling, which will now be heard at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Marshall said in a statement, “For daring to protect her citizens’ freedom of speech, Florida is being demonized by the giants of Big Tech, which have the gall to claim that invalidating the Sunshine State’s anti-censorship law is necessary ‘to protect Florida consumers, small businesses, and free speech.’”
— Attorney General Steve Marshall (@AGSteveMarshall) September 15, 2021
The issue of big tech censorship has become a major point of contention between conservatives and liberals, especially after the 2020 presidential election campaign and the events that followed.
In October, just weeks before the election, Facebook and Twitter blocked users from posting a New York Post story implicating then-candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter in corrupt business dealings in Ukraine. Conservatives cried foul, claiming that big tech was willfully aiding the Biden campaign, while the companies claimed they were attempting to stop the spread of misinformation while fact-checkers reviewed the story.
Then, following the January 6 riots at the Capitol, former president Donald Trump was banned from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms, as Twitter claimed, “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Parler, a social media company that presents itself as a neutral platform free of censorship, was then removed from Apple’s App store and Amazon’s web servers for failing to remove content that they believed was spreading violence.
Liberals argue that social media platforms are private companies with every right to determine their own content, and that the steps these companies are taking are necessary to curb the spread of misinformation and violence. However, Conservatives warn that big tech has become too powerful and is unfairly silencing conservative voices and violating their own right to free speech.