Florida faces lawsuit over Trump-inspired law to block Facebook, YouTube and Twitter from political 'censorship'

Calling it a “frontal assault on the First Amendment,” a federal lawsuit is seeking to strike down a Florida law that penalizes social media companies for barring the speech of political candidates, USA TODAY has learned.

Two technology trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, sued the state Thursday in Tallahassee federal court on grounds that the law it crafted to thwart alleged censorship of conservative viewpoints and voices violates the Constitution, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by USA TODAY. 

The tech industry’s lawsuit alleges the Florida law infringes on the First Amendment rights of online businesses and is preempted by a federal law that shields internet companies from being sued for how they moderate content.

Signed Monday by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the law is the first of its kind to crack down Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube for unfairly restricting or removing conservative content from their platforms, a charge the companies deny.

“If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable,” DeSantis, a possible 2024 presidential contender and ally of former President Donald Trump, said in a statement Monday.

But the lawsuit alleges that Florida is the one attempting to censor free speech and expression by compelling social media companies to host speech and speakers they disagree with.

"Rather than preventing what it calls 'censorship,' the Act does the exact opposite: it empowers government officials in Florida to police the protected editorial judgment of online businesses that the State disfavors and whose perceived political viewpoints it wishes to punish," the lawsuit says. "The Act is a frontal assault on the First Amendment and an extraordinary intervention by the government in the free marketplace of ideas that would be unthinkable for traditional media, book sellers, lending libraries, or newsstands."

DeSantis could not be immediately reached for comment.


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