Florida law banning social media censorship is likely unconstitutional, 11th Circuit says
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A federal appeals court on Monday blocked parts of a Florida law that prevent social media companies from banning political candidates, deprioritizing political messages or censoring content by journalistic enterprises.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta ruled that most of the law’s provisions were likely unconstitutional and left intact parts of an injunction that had blocked those provisions from taking effect, report Law.com, the Washington Post and Techdirt.
The appeals court said it is substantially likely that social media companies are private actors protected by the First Amendment, and the Florida law unconstitutionally interferes with their right to exercise editorial discretion.
The 11th Circuit also blocked part of the law that required platforms to provide a “thorough rationale” for censorship decisions. But the appeals court allowed enforcement of other disclosure provisions, including one requiring social media companies to publish the standards that they use for censorship.
Judge Kevin C. Newsom wrote the May 23 decision.
Florida’s lawyers had argued that the state made a permissible decision to treat social media companies like common carriers that must provide a right to access for some types of speech.
The case is NetChoice v. Attorney General, State of Florida.
It follows a contrary decision earlier this month by the 5th Circuit at New Orleans, which temporarily reinstated a Texas law banning social media censorship based on political views.
Social media companies in the Texas case, NetChoice v. Paxton, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court in an emergency application to reinstate a lower-court injunction that had blocked the law.