Written by Brendan Pearson
(Reuters) – Florida on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to revive a state law aimed at preventing social media companies from restricting users’ political speech after a federal appeals court blocked it earlier this year.
The law, which industry group NetChoice has challenged, would require social media companies to disclose and consistently enforce the rules they use to ban or censor users, and limit their ability to ban candidates for political office from their platforms.
NetChoice members include Facebook (NASDAQ:), owner of Instagram Meta Platforms Inc, Alphabet Corporation (NASDAQ: Inc) and parent Google Twitter Inc (NYSE:).
The ruling comes days after a different federal appeals court, the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, allowed a similar law in Texas that was challenged by NetChoice to take effect.
Florida argued that the dispute between the Atlanta-based Fifth Circuit and the Eleventh Circuit, which struck down the Florida law, should be resolved by the nation’s Supreme Court.
Karl Szabo, NetChoice’s general counsel, said in a statement that the group agreed that the case should be heard by the Supreme Court, and was confident it would prevail.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law the state in May 2021, saying it was needed to prevent “censorship” by “Big Tech.” The move came as many Republicans criticized Facebook and Twitter for banning former President Donald Trump after he praised supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Tech groups have sought to preserve rights to regulate user content when they believe it may lead to violence, citing concerns that unregulated platforms would empower extremists such as Nazi supporters, terrorists and hostile foreign governments.
The Eleventh Circuit found in May that most of the law violated social media companies’ right to free speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, upholding a lower court judge’s ruling.
Also in May, the Supreme Court, by 5-4, temporarily blocked the Texas law while lower courts considered the NetChoice challenge. Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch said in dissent that it was not clear how the First Amendment should apply to large social media companies.