After an appeals court struck down key portions of a state law designed to prevent social media companies from freely making content moderation decisions, Florida wants the Supreme Court to weigh in.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a petition Wednesday asking the highest court in the land to wade into the issue after two federal appeals courts issued contradictory rulings.
In Florida, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit determined that it was unconstitutional for the state to prevent social media companies from issuing bans to political figures. While the court struck down most of the Florida law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit just upheld a parallel law in Texas known as House Bill 20, ruling that it did not violate social media sites’ First Amendment rights.
In Florida, Senate Bill 7072 prohibits platforms banning or deprioritizing candidates for state office as well as news outlets above a certain size threshold. The law would open social media companies up to lawsuits when users or the state determine that they moderated content or user accounts in a way that violated the spirit of the law.
Unlike in Texas, the court that examined the Florida law found that social media companies fell under the First Amendment when it comes to making decisions about moderating content.
“We conclude that social media platforms’ content-moderation activities — permitting, removing, prioritizing, and deprioritizing users and posts — constitute ‘speech’ within the meaning of the First Amendment,” the panel of judges wrote in the court ruling.
NetChoice, an industry group representing Meta, Google, Twitter and other tech companies, projected confidence that the Supreme Court would resolve the state-level fight over content moderation in its favor, though how things will shake out is ultimately difficult to predict.
“We agree with Florida that the U.S. Supreme Court should hear this case … ” NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo said. “We look forward to seeing Florida in Court and having the lower court’s decision upheld. We have the Constitution and over a century of precedent on our side.”