WCTV by Jim Saunders
June 22, 2021
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) – Accusing social-media platforms of censorship, Florida attorneys late Monday pushed back against an attempt to block a new state law that would put restrictions on companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The state, in a 61-page court filing, argued that U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle should reject a request by online-industry groups for a preliminary injunction against the law, a top priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The law, which is scheduled to take effect July 1, seeks to prevent large social-media companies from barring political candidates from their platforms and would require companies to publish — and apply consistently — standards about issues such as blocking users.
The industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association filed a lawsuit May 27 and are seeking the preliminary injunction, contending that the law would violate First Amendment rights and harm companies’ efforts to moderate content.
But the filing late Monday by the state’s attorneys tried to flip the First Amendment argument, contending that social-media platforms engage in censorship and violate speech rights.
“The public record is replete with instances of their arbitrary and bad faith content moderation … Moreover, the social media behemoths’ power to silence both on their platforms and throughout society has given rise to a troubling trend where a handful of corporations control a critical chokepoint for the expression of ideas,” attorneys for the state wrote. “Such unprecedented power of censorship is especially concerning today, when most individuals use social media to obtain their news and government officials harness such mediums to reach the public. The act (the new law) seeks to rein in abuse of this power and ensure the widespread dissemination of information from a multiplicity of sources — a governmental objective of the highest order that promotes values central to the First Amendment.”