Ashley Moody welcomes the Trump-appointed judge’s verdict against her

Ashley Moody, Fla

SEBRING, FLORIDA – JANUARY 24: Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General

Attorney General of Florida Ashley Moody (R) lauded a federal court decision blocking most of the Sunshine State’s new self-proclaimed anti-censorship social media law. Moody is a named defendant in the lawsuit. she has previously praised the effort by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Administration to exercise strict government oversight and regulation over certain social media companies.

“We are pleased that the court recognized the state’s authority to rein in social media companies and upheld much of Florida statute as guiding,” Moody said tweeted on Monday Afternoon. “We will continue to vigorously defend Florida’s authority to hold Big Tech accountable.”

The Attorney General’s ebullient reaction to the court’s decision was criticized by legal experts who pointed out that the core of the law was actually on hold due to First Amendment concerns. In particular, Florida is still prevented from penalizing companies like Facebook and Twitter that “deplat” political candidates.

Only minor parts of the law were allowed to come into force.

Law Professor at the University of Texas Steve Vladeck categorized Moody’s response to the decision as “quite difficult”.

Vladeck went on to say that the ruling came “from a deeply conservative panel of the Eleventh Circuit (i.e., judges most likely to be sympathetic)” and noted that the appellate opinion “unanimously shelved key parts of Florida law because they “essentially likely” *violated* the First Amendment.

US District Judge in June 2021 Robert Hinkel issued an injunction barring the enactment of the law in its entirety.

“The legislation in question was an attempt to curb social media providers who were considered too large and too liberal,” said the lower court. “Equalizing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not in the legitimate interest of the state.”

On Monday, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit largely upheld Hinkle’s restraining order. The statute, SB 7072, consists of 12 substantive statutory provisions – amendments and additions – to the Florida Statutes. The Court of Appeals upheld the injunction on seven of those subsections and vacated the injunction on five. The decisions as to which portions of the law remain in force and which portions remain statute-barred were made on the basis of what the court considered their likely constitutionality.

Although mixed in numbers, the ruling blocks decidedly more of the law than it allows, and the opinion itself accuses the state of Florida of attempting to violate the First Amendment.

“It was not in the wildest dreams of anyone in the founding generation of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or TikTok,” said Circuit Judge Kevin Newsoma donald trump appointment, begins. “But ‘regardless of the challenges of applying the Constitution to ever-evolving technology, the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, such as the First Amendment imperative, do not change with the emergence of a new and different medium of communication.'”

The expert opinion outlines why SB 7072 is largely unconstitutional:

We think it’s essentially likely that social media companies — even the largest ones — are “private actors” whose rights the First Amendment protects have their so-called “content moderation” decisions constitute protected editorial judgments , and so on. The provisions of the new Florida law, which limit the ability of large platforms to engage in moderation of content, unconstitutionally burden that prerogative. We further conclude that it is essentially likely that one of the law’s most onerous disclosure provisions — which would require covered platforms to provide “reasonable justification” for every single content moderation decision they make — against violates the first amendment. Accordingly, we believe the companies are entitled to an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of these provisions.

The Opinion also allows Florida to enforce three subsections that require companies to disclose certain non-controversial information, provide certain data to users upon request, and notify political candidates of certain advertising policies. But the court itself, on its own terms, minimizes what’s left for Florida here.

“Assessment: We conclude that the moderation activities of social media platforms—allowing, removing, prioritizing, and deprioritizing users and posts—constitute First Amendment ‘speech’,” Newsom continues. “All but one of the operational provisions of SB 7072 imply the platforms’ First Amendment rights.”

The judge goes on to deliver several lectures on free speech and social media – cautioning that this section of the opinion “would be too obvious to mention if it weren’t so often lost or obscured in political rhetoric.” , an implicit rebuke to certain politicians who have offered an increasingly distorted understanding of what exactly constitutes protected speech under First Amendment jurisprudence.

“No one is obligated to contribute to or consume the content that the platforms make available,” Newsom notes. “And accordingly, while the Constitution protects citizens from government efforts to limit their access to social media, no one has the right to compel a platform to allow it to contribute to or consume social media content.”

The Opinion also points to the clear possibility that the minor provisions for which they have now been approved could prove “unreasonably onerous” and eventually be scrapped anyway.

Moody’s praise for the decision — which discouraged Florida’s efforts to essentially limit social media companies’ ability to censor and moderate certain content and users — didn’t go unnoticed.

For her part, Moody has also supported similar legislation based on SB 7072 in Texas – notably by filing an amicus brief in support of the Lone Star State’s law. She would later Post about their support for Texas law on Twitter. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit famously upheld that law earlier this month.

DeSantis and Moody unsuccessfully urged Newsom and the other panel judges in recent briefs to vacate the entire injunction SB 7072 by citing the Fifth Circuit’s decision.

The plaintiffs are in a turnaround being fair play situation looking to tip over Texas law immediately filed a motion with the US Supreme Court, citing Monday’s 11th Circuit decision.

[image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected] Ashley Moody welcomes the Trump-appointed judge’s verdict against her

Olly Dawes

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