In response to Facebook and Twitter suspending former President Donald Trump from their platforms, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday signed a law that fines social media companies that permanently ban political candidates in the state and makes it easier for Floridians to sue the businesses.
This is the first state law that regulates how a tech company moderates speech, and a legal challenge is expected. DeSantis, a Trump supporter, said in a statement that with this new law, "if Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable."
The law makes it illegal for a social media company to ban any candidate for state office for more than 14 days, tacking on a $250,000 daily fine, and they must now also clearly state why they decide to remove or leave up content. There is an exception: The law does not apply to companies that own a theme park or entertainment venue larger than 25 acres. Florida is home to Walt Disney World, owned by Disney, and Comcast's Universal Orlando Resort.
Democrats, Libertarians, and tech groups are pushing back, The New York Times reports, arguing that the law violates the companies' First Amendment rights. "It's the government telling private entities how to speak," Carl Szabo, vice president of the trade association NetChoice, told the Times. "In general, it's a gross misreading of the First Amendment."
Trump was suspended from multiple social media platforms in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, and the National Conference of State Legislatures says that so far this year, more than 100 bills have been introduced nationwide targeting how social media companies moderate users. In most cases, nothing came of the bill, but there is a proposal now being debated in Texas, the Times reports.