Big Tech Sues Florida over Sec. 230 Law

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Big Tech companies are suing the state of Florida over its recently passed law that limits websites' Sec. 230 immunity from civil liability over third party content, saying it is a speech restriction targeted at select online businesses.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association teamed up with NetChoice, whose membership also includes companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, saying that the law would open platforms to suits for content moderation policies designed to protect users' safety.

CCIA argued that edge providers have a First Amendment right to protect users including by determining "what material is appropriate for their community."

Also Read: Facebook to D.C. on Sec. 230: Regulate Us, Please

The suit, filed in the U.S. district Court for the Northern District of Florida, seeks to enjoin enforcement of the law, which they said is preempted by Sec. 230, exceeds the state's authority under the Commerce Clause, and is otherwise infirm.

“We are bringing this suit to safeguard the industry’s free speech right to deliver on their commitments to users to mitigate harmful content online," said CCIA president Matt Schruers.

The law, which was passed by the Republican majority legislature and signed earlier this week by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, removes that civil liability protection for Big Tech platforms—like Facebook or Twitter—that violate the law, including allowing for monetary damages up to $250,000 per day for de-platforming political candidates for statewide office, and $25,000 per day for candidates for non-statewide offices.

Also Read: Rep. Cicciline Says Big Tech Power Will Be Curbed

In addition to monetary penalties, the law prevents violators of antitrust law, which the Florida attorney general can pursue under Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, from contracting with any public entity, a "blacklist" DeSantis' office said would create "real consequences" for Big Tech "oligopolies."

“We cannot stand idly by as Florida’s lawmakers push unconstitutional bills into law that bring us closer to state-run media and a state-run internet," said Carl Szabo, VP and general counsel of NetChoice.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.