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Florida to Facebook: You Can't Ban Candidates

State will fine social media companies under new law
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2021 1:42 AM CDT
Updated May 25, 2021 6:42 AM CDT

(Newser) – In what the New York Times calls a "direct response" to Facebook and Twitter suspending then-President Trump from their platforms, Florida on Monday adopted a law that allows social media companies to be fined for taking such action. Specifically, the law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed, bars the companies from suspending political candidates for more than 14 days as elections loom, the Washington Post reports. If a social network does so, it will be fined $250,000 per day if the candidate is running for statewide office, or $25,000 for local offices. The law also prohibits the companies from stopping media outlets from posting to their platforms based on the content of the outlets' articles, or limiting the reach of those articles.

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Florida is the first state to regulate how social networks moderate online speech, though more than a hundred similar bills have been filed (and then, in most cases, died) across the US this year, and the law will almost certainly face a constitutional challenge. "If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable," DeSantis says in a statement. But opponents of the law claim it violates the tech firms' First Amendment rights. Interestingly, companies that own a theme park or entertainment venue larger than 25 acres (like, say, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando or Universal Studios Florida) are exempt, so Disney and Comcast need not worry. The law takes effect July 1, CNET reports. (Read more Florida stories.)

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