Eleventh Circuit social media ruling appealed to SCOTUS

Young woman using social media apps – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by: 13_Phunkod

Florida’s attorney general filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn a federal court’s ruling from May that largely invalidated a state statute prohibiting social media corporations from de-platforming political candidates due to First Amendment violations. 

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ order from May contradicts the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision from last week, which upheld a related Texas social media regulation.

Setting up the potential decision: If the Supreme Court decides to hear the appeal, it would be the first time the court’s highest court had commented on the central questions raised in the 11th Circuit case, including whether social media platforms’ handling of user content is protected by the First Amendment. 

Republican-controlled states like Florida and Texas passed and attempted to enforce legislation that targets social media companies for allegedly “censoring” conservative viewpoints and bans public figures like former President Donald Trump for breaking laws against inciting violence.

Florida’s argument: Ashley Moody, Florida’s attorney general, argues in favor of the constitutionality of S.B. 7072 in her appeal. The 11th Circuit decision, according to her, “strips States of their historic power to protect their citizens’ access to information, implicating questions of nationwide importance.”

The future of platforms is unclear: Facebook, Twitter, and Google are represented by the tech trade associations NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, who have filed lawsuits in relation to both the Florida and Texas statutes.

By limiting their power to police their platforms and possibly requiring them to carry hate speech and extremist content, the organizations claim the regulations would fundamentally alter how the platforms they represent operate.

CCIA supports Florida’s appeal to the Supreme Court, but only because it also wants the highest court to consider the validity of the statute. While the attorney general and the tech groups seek extra scrutiny, the Florida law is not yet in effect.

“There is consensus that this question—whether states can compel digital services to disseminate content inconsistent with their policies—is one that should be heard by the Supreme Court,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in an email. “While Florida’s social media law is a threat to the First Amendment and to democratic principles, we do agree that the case calls for additional review.”

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