May 24, 2021 - Technology

Florida law will regulate how social media companies moderate speech

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis
Ron DeSantis. Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Florida Monday became the first state in the U.S. to broadly regulate social media platforms' moderation of user speech online.

Driving the news: Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law fining social media services that permanently ban candidates running for office in Florida.

  • The law also prevents platforms from removing content from news outlets above a certain size.
  • It allows people to sue platforms if they think social media companies are inconsistently applying their content rules.

Yes, but: Legal experts expect the law to face constitutional challenges.

  • Corbin Barthold, internet policy counsel at tech policy think tank TechFreedom, called it a "First Amendment train wreck."

Of note: Companies are exempt from the law if they own a theme park or another type of entertainment venue bigger than 25 acres.

  • That gives Florida-based Disney and Universal Studios a pass on the new online rules.

What they're saying: "If Big Tech censors enforce rules consistently to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable," DeSantis said, describing the bill as a recourse for Florida residents who think they've been unfairly treated by tech companies.

  • On a call with reporters, officials from DeSantis' office said they were confident the law would stand up to legal scrutiny.

What to watch: Other states have considered similar bills, but this is the first to make it to a governor's desk.

  • Republican ire with tech companies and content moderation policies has risen steadily, especially after former President Donald Trump lost his Twitter and Facebook accounts following the January 6 Capitol riot.
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