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Computer Giants Seek to Block Enforcement of Florida Bill limiting Sec. 230

A gavel on a desk
(Image credit: Robert Daly/Getty Images)

Edge players have launched the latest legal salvo in their attempt to block a Florida law they say unconstitutionally restricts free speech, equal protection and due process.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice, which together represent all the big players--Amazon, Google, Twitter, Mozilla (Dish and Verizon as well), have filed for a preliminary injunction in a Tallahassee federal district court asking it to block enforcement of the state law scheduled to go into effect next month.

The law takes effect July 1, and the groups want the court to decide on the injunction ASAP and say that without that injunction, "the Act will throw into legal jeopardy countless moderation measures taken by these businesses on a continual basis, will flatly bar them from removing or regulating large swaths of online content that might be highly objectionable or in violation of their rules, and require them to send millions of new, detailed notices to their users." 

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

The two association's filed suit late last month over a recently passed law that limits websites' Sec. 230 immunity from civil liability over their moderation third party content

The law was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature. 

Republicans have argued that Silicon Valley giants have attempted to suppress conservative speech in the guise of moderating their platforms and under the protection of Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which exempts them with civil liability over most of that third party content.

The bill's language makes that clear, saying: "Social media platforms have unfairly censored, shadow banned, de-platformed, and applied post-prioritization algorithms to Floridians." The bill presumes that doing so is not acting in bad faith, which means it is legally actionable, and the governor signaled the state's attorney general would act if that were the case.

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

CCIA and NetChoice, in the suit filed May 27, said the law would open platforms to suits for content moderation policies designed to protect users' safety. They argue, among other things, that edge providers have a First Amendment right to protect users including by determining "what material is appropriate for their community."

“By binding the hands of digital services fighting dangerous content online, this law would give free rein to bad actors ranging from anti-American extremists to online predators," said CCIA President Matt Schruers. "At the same time, when a digital service decides that Nazi political candidates are unwelcome on its platform, it is exercising its free speech rights, and this law violates that Constitutional protection. That is why we filed this motion..."

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.