Gov. DeSantis Losing Fight Against Social Media Giants?
Over the course of the 2020 presidential as well as other federal elections, various social media companies used their power to ban politicians who they deemed were spreading false information or inciting violence against a group of people. Many of those banned from using social media, including former President Trump, were from the Republican party. This caused a huge uproar across the nation from members of the GOP as well as Americans who lean Republican. Their thought was that social media was silencing conservative voices on purpose and thus violating the first amendment. However, not much was done to combat these moves within the legal sector, as private companies have the right to do whatever they like as long as it's within their terms of service.
Florida Gov. DeSantis Takes a Stand
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis(R) has been one of the most vocal proponents on passing legislation that would punish social media companies that attempt to silence a politician's voice online. In fact, he was also amongst the first governors in the country to introduce laws into their books that allow the state of Florida to punish these companies. However, as with any law that is hotly contested by the public, a legal case was open on the legality of it all.
Argument Against Punishment
One of the biggest concerns amongst the public of not being able to remove these voices from social media is that it could lead to horrible events like the one seen on January 6 when a group of insurrectionists attempted to take over the U.S Capitol. Many attribute the events to the false information being spread online by the public as well as some members of Congress, including Former President Trump. Democrats, along with members of the American public, see this fight to punish social media companies as a way of receiving a free pass to say whatever they want online without fear of being removed.
Judge Delays Decision
The law introduced by Gov. DeSantis to punish social media companies when they ban politicians from their platform was scheduled to go into effect on July 1st. However, at the last minute, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle halted that from occurring. Judge Robert Hinkle stated that "the law's ban on "de-platforming" likely violated the free speech rights of social media companies, which under the First Amendment are generally free to decide what to publish without government interference." In short, the judge has some reservations about approving this law as it could potentially be unconstitutional. However, he added that there are some parts of the law that could be used to protect people from companies but that the law, as it stands, is like burning the whole house down to roast a pig.
What the Law States
The law was challenged not only because it seemed to be politically driven but also because of the wide array of details within the law that need to be dissected to understand. Let's begin with how bans are going to work. The law states that politicians will not be allowed to have their accounts deleted or permanently banned but could be suspended for up to 14 days if they violate the company's terms of service agreement. However, if a social media company does violate this law, the Florida state elections commission will fine them $250,000 a day for statewide candidates and $25,000 a day for other candidates.
Other than the question about whether the law is even constitutional, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle also questioned why only certain companies were included in the law, and others weren't. For example, tech companies owned by theme parks or entertainment complex companies such as Disney were seemingly excluded from the law. NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which have members such as Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter, voiced concern over this same issue. NetChoice Vice President Carl Szabo stated that citizens should be very concerned about an unconstitutional law from being passed. Szabo added that the move to control what tech companies can or cannot do is a one-way path towards a state-run media and a state-run internet.