Wherein The Copia Institute Tells The Eleventh Circuit That Florida's SB 7072 Law Violates Our Rights
from the sticking-it-to-everyone-to-stick-it-to-facebook dept
We’ve talked a lot about the Florida law SB 7072 that attempts to regulate social media platforms. In broad strokes, it tries to constrain how at least certain Internet platforms moderate their platforms by imposing specific requirements on them about how they must or may not do so. That law is now being challenged in court. The district court enjoined it, and Florida has now appealed to the Eleventh Circuit to have the injunction overturned. This week the Copia Institute joined others in filing amicus briefs in support of maintaining the injunction.
As we told the told the court, the Copia Institute wears two hats: One hat we wear is as commentators on the issues raised by the intersection of technology and civil liberties, which laws like Florida’s impact. Meanwhile, the other hat is the one we wear by sitting at this crossroads ourselves, particularly with respect to free speech.
To operate Techdirt, the Copia Institute needs robust First Amendment protection, and also Section 230 protection, to both convey our own expression and to engage with our readers, including in our comments section. Unfortunately the Florida law impermissibly targets both sets of rights. And this constitutional and statutory incursion affects every Internet platform, and all the user speech they facilitate, including us and ours, even if we don’t all fall directly into its crosshairs.
The Florida law’s enforcement crosshairs are especially arbitrary, ostensibly targeting companies with very high revenue, or very large audiences, unless, of course, they happen to also own a theme park? But one thing we told the court is that the specific details don’t really bear on the law’s overall constitutional and statutory defects. Part of the reason is because if Florida could pick these arbitrary criteria, which might not apply to certain platforms, another state could pass a law with different criteria that would reach more, and then these platforms would still be left having to cope with a fundamentally impermissible law.
Also, it’s not clear that even small entities like ours might not be able to attract the larger audiences the Florida law describes since that’s at the very heart of what we try to do as an enterprise: have reach and influence. The point of the First Amendment is to make it possible for outlets like ours to connect with readers ? only thanks to laws like this, we could end up punished with onerous regulation we couldn’t possibly comply with should we succeed. And that sort of punitive deterrence to expression is not something the First Amendment, or even Section 230, permit.
But even if Techdirt could remain safe from the reach of a law like this, it would still hurt us if it hurt other platforms, because we need the help of other platforms to help our message get out too. Indeed, the whole point of the Florida law is ostensibly to help people use these other platforms to get their messages out. Only the upshot is that the law does the exact opposite by salting the regulatory earth so that no platform can safely exist to help users do that.