• An appeals court upheld a block on a Florida law that stops tech firms from "deplatforming" politicians.
  • A three-judge panel ruled that tech firms are protected by the First Amendment.
  • The law is part of a broader conservative campaign against tech firms for supposedly silencing right-wing voices.

A Florida law that punishes social media firms for "deplatforming" politicians hit a roadblock on Monday, after a federal appeals court ruled it would violate firms' constitutional rights to freedom of speech.

DeSantis signed the bill into law in May 2021 with an eye to preventing firms from "willfully deplatforming" political candidates in Florida by suspending their accounts, in keeping with wider conservative complaints about perceived silencing of right-wing voices. Firms could be fined up to $250,000 for violations under the law.

"Big Tech bureaucrats are not the arbiters of truth," DeSantis tweeted at the time. "Unaccountable oligarchs will no longer have the power to silence Floridians for challenging corporate media narratives or dissenting from the Silicon Valley orthodoxy. We the people of Florida will now hold Big Tech accountable."

Industry groups including NetChoice and the CCIA — which represent TikTok, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Facebook, and others — sued Florida the week the bill was passed, The Verge reported.

However, a three-judge panel ruled the law violates firms' Firms Amendment protections.

"We hold that it is substantially likely that social-media companies — even the biggest ones — are 'private actors' whose rights the First Amendment protects," Judge Kevin Newsom, who was appointed by Donald Trump, wrote in the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Monday. The panel's decision was unanimous.

"Put simply, with minor exceptions, the government can't tell a private person or entity what to say or how to say it," Newsom added.

Monday's decision upheld a lower court's ruling in 2021 that prevented parts of the same law from coming into effect, including preventing social-media companies from "de-platforming" political candidates, or choosing which posts from political candidates to prioritize, Forbes reported.

However, the decision did allow other provisions to go through, including requiring clear content standards and allowing users to access their data, per Reuters

A spokesperson for DeSantis told Deadline: "The court's central holding that social media platforms are similar to newspapers and parades, rather than common carriers that transmit others' messages, is stupefying. Floridians know differently."

DeSantis is up for re-election this year and is expected to run for president in 2024 as a GOP candidate, Insider reported. He was the first among several governors to sign such a bill into law.

Monday's decision stands in contrast to a decision two weeks ago by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit. That ruling reinstated a Texas law that allowed users to sue social-media companies if they think their content was taken down for their political views, Insider reported. The judges did not explain their reasoning, but the decision was not unanimous, Reuters reported. Tech lobby groups are now asking the Supreme Court to block the Texas law, and a decision could be issued soon, per NPR.

The Florida decision "makes it even more likely that the US Supreme Court will overturn the 5th Circuit's split decision on the similar Texas law," NetChoice vice president Carl Szabo told Protocol.

Read the original article on Business Insider