How One New Social Media Law Is Being Challenged

By Joseph Farago | 4 weeks ago

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Many are familiar with Florida’s longstanding, right-wing politics. But over the last few years, Ron Desantis has led an unabashedly Trump-loving reign in the Sunshine State and intends to crack down on social media platforms that allegedly censor conservative viewpoints. As Desantis tried to push legislation that would punish social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, a recent court ruling has stopped the Florida governor in his tracks.

A federal court ruled on Monday that Desantis’s legislation that would punish social media platforms is against the First Amendment, therefore deeming it unconstitutional. This is a tremendous relief for significant corporations that right-wing politicians have relentlessly criticized. Many conservatives have frustratingly never realized that private companies like Twitter have their own terms of service and policies, and it’s their right to remove the type of language that doesn’t coincide with those guidelines.

Censoring was a big issue with Trump during the early stages of the pandemic. As social media CEOs began to instill policies that removed misinformation about the pandemic, conservative pundits lamented that this action was unconstitutional. But again, social media platforms have the right to enforce their own guidelines, which do not interfere with America’s First Amendment jurisdiction.

Ron Desantis’s push for social media censoring was thrown out by Atlanta’s 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Three judges were at this court dictating whether or not this legislation would be able to pass. The panel concluded that this was an unconstitutional venture, reiterating that Republicans could not impose laws that would punish companies for enforcing their own community guidelines.

Just in case Desantis didn’t understand the message, Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom repeated the reason for the court’s decision to dismiss the action. “The government can’t tell a private person or entity what to say,” Newsom stated, which is a critical part of the First Amendment that Republicans adamantly adhere to. Other than what’s deemed by the government as hate speech, which is speech that targets marginalized groups in America, federal action cannot be taken on individuals posting on social media platforms. In fact, the First Amendment protects social media companies from imposing their own terms of service and allows people to post on the internet without arrest.

Still, Governor Desantis and other Republican politicians are dissatisfied with social media platforms accepting left-leaning ideas while criticizing the right. Desantis stated his dissatisfaction with social media companies at last May’s bill-signing ceremony. Desantis believes that these companies are “exerting a power” over American citizens and dictating how they think and what they post about. But media platforms that remove violent content or misinformation are bipartisan, and those rules apply to every user equally.

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Other states haven’t been as dismissive about free speech policies regarding social media. In Texas, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a similar law surveilling social media companies to take effect. Today, certain tech corporations attempt to get the US Supreme Court to override this decision as unconstitutional.

Ron Desantis is running for president in 2024 and intends to follow similar actions to his Republican predecessor Trump. Since many right-wing constituents believe that social media platforms have a liberal bias or agenda, attempting to pass laws against Twitter and Facebook could help embolden Desantis’s conservative supporters.