Cancel culture has grown in popularity
Cancel culture may have recently grown in popularity due to social media, but it started way before Twitter existed. Find out how everyone from Chrissy Teigen to politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Joe Manchin have been affected.
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- The technology industry challenged the law, which was set to take effect Thursday, saying it would infringe on the First Amendment rights of online businesses.
- Florida lawmakers approved the law after Facebook, Twitter and YouTube suspended Trump’s accounts following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
A federal judge on Wednesday night blocked a Florida law that would penalize social media companies for barring the speech of politicians, striking a blow to conservatives still fuming over the suspension of former President Donald Trump and allegations that Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube censor right-wing views.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida said the law, which would have forced social media companies to allow speech even if it violated their rules, would likely be found unconstitutional.
The technology industry challenged the law, which was set to take effect Thursday, saying it would infringe on the First Amendment rights of online businesses.
“The plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their claim that these statutes violate the First Amendment,” Hinkle wrote. “There is nothing that could be severed and survive.”
Florida lawmakers approved the law after Facebook, Twitter and YouTube suspended Trump’s accounts following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
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It was signed in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally and possible 2024 presidential candidate who championed the law as a needed crackdown on the unbridled power of social media companies.
A spokeswoman said DeSantis planned to appeal.
“We are disappointed by Judge Hinkle’s ruling and disagree with his determination that the U.S. Constitution protects Big Tech’s censorship of certain individuals and content over others,” press secretary Christina Pushaw said in a statement. “Gov. DeSantis continues to fight for freedom of speech and against Big Tech’s discriminatory censorship.”
Under the law, the state would be able to fine large social media companies $250,000 a day if they removed an account of a statewide political candidate and $25,000 a day if they removed the account of someone seeking local office. It also would require social media companies to notify users within seven days that they could be censored, giving them time to correct posts.
Two technology trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, claimed Florida was attempting to censor free speech and expression by compelling social media companies to host speech and speakers they disagree with.
Their lawsuit alleged Florida’s new law was a “blatant attack” on the content moderation choices social media companies make daily to protect the public and advertisers from pornography, terrorist incitement, false propaganda spread by foreign actors, calls for genocide or race-based violence, COVID-19 vaccines disinformation, fraudulent schemes and other harmful, offensive or illegal material.
“America’s judiciary system is designed to protect our constitutional rights, and today’s ruling is no different, ensuring that Florida’s politically motivated law does not force Floridians to endure racial epithets, aggressive homophobia, pornographic material, beheadings, or other gruesome content just to use the internet,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, said in a statement.
Legal experts also questioned the law’s viability.
Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, told USA TODAY that the Florida law was bound to draw legal challenges as some of the new law’s provisions are “obviously unconstitutional.”
“The Supreme Court has made it clear that publishers have the freedom to pick and choose what content they want to publish, and the bill blatantly seeks to strip publishers of that freedom,” he said. “Florida residents should expect better from their legislators, and now they see their tax dollars spent defending an indefensible bill that never should have passed.”