Florida is asking the Supreme Court to rule on its controversial social media law


Washington
CNN business

Florida has asked the Supreme Court to rule that states can force social media companies to host content they would like to remove, setting up a landmark battle over digital speech rights and content moderation that could reshape the country’s relationship with the First Amendment.

In a petition filed with the court on Wednesday, Florida’s attorney general argued that the dominance of major social media platforms and their ability to promote the views of some users over others means it is imperative that the justices weigh in on the issue.

“Whether the First Amendment fundamentally prevents the States — and presumably the federal government — from meaningfully addressing these distortions should be answered by this court, and it should be answered now,” the petition said.

At the center of the legal battle is a Florida law, SB 7072, that allows political candidates to sue social media companies if they are blocked or removed from the platforms for more than 14 days.

Opponents representing the technology industry sued to block that law, arguing that it violated the First Amendment rights of private companies. Earlier this year, a federal court agreed with that rationale, and Florida this week petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene.

Top legal experts said if SB 7072 survives a legal challenge, tech companies could be forced to host spam, hate speech and other legal but problematic material on their platforms. It could also rewrite the decades-old First Amendment that prohibits governments from compelling private parties to speak, they said.

In a statement Wednesday, NetChoice — one of Florida’s opponents of the law — said it welcomed Florida’s request.

“We agree with Florida that the US Supreme Court should hear this case, and we are confident that First Amendment rights will be upheld,” said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice. “We look forward to seeing Florida in court and affirming the lower court’s decision. We have 200 years of precedent on our side.”

The request comes days after another federal appeals court upheld a similar law in Texas that allows social media users to sue platforms if they “block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, revoke, limit, deny equal access or visibility.” , or otherwise discriminating expression.” (In May, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Texas law from taking effect while the case continued.)

Last week’s decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the Texas law contrasts with an Eleventh Circuit ruling earlier this year that found the Florida law unconstitutional, creating a circuit split in which the Supreme Court is likely to intervene.