November 28, 2022

In a petition filed in court on Wednesday, the Florida attorney general argued that the dominance of major social media platforms and their ability to promote the opinions of some users over others meant it was critical for judges to consider the case.

“The question whether the First Amendment fundamentally disables states—and perhaps the federal government as well—from purposefully addressing these distortions must be answered by this court, and must be answered now,” the petition said.

At the heart of the court battle is Florida SB 7072, which allows political candidates to sue social media companies if they are banned or removed from platforms for more than 14 days.

Opponents representing the tech industry sued to block this law, arguing that it violated the First Amendment rights of private companies. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court agreed to that reasoning, leading to Florida’s petition for Supreme Court intervention this week.

Leading legal experts said that if SB 7072 survives legal challenge, tech companies may be forced to host spam, hate speech and other legal but problematic material on their platforms. It could also rewrite decades of the First Amendment precedent that prevented governments from forcing private parties to host the speech, they said.

In a statement on Wednesday, NetChoice — a competitor to Florida law — said it welcomed the Florida petition.

“We agree with Florida that this case should be heard by the US Supreme Court, and we are confident that First Amendment rights will be upheld,” said Carl Szabo, NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel. “We look forward to seeing Florida in court and upholding the lower court’s decision. We have 200 years of precedent on our part.”

The petition comes days after another federal appeals court upheld a similar law in Texas that would allow social media users to sue platforms if they move to “block, ban, remove, disarm, demonize, de-promot, restrict or deny equal access or visibility, or otherwise discriminate.” Another anti-expression.” (In May, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the application of Texas law while litigation continues.)

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision last week to uphold the Texas law contrasts with a ruling by the Eleventh Circuit earlier this year that deemed Florida’s law unconstitutional — leading to a circular split that makes it more likely that the Supreme Court will intervene.

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