Florida legislators are going after social media companies in an attempt to control the way users are able to access platforms. What laws have already been passed? Why is the United States Supreme Court stepping in? And what does it mean for social media users?

Florida Law Targets Social Media Companies in 2021

Florida has been in the news lately regarding its laws that impact how users access social media platforms, but the fight between Florida legislators and social media started in 2021.

In May 2021, Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7072, which put limits on actions social media companies could take against their users, particularly political figures.

Notably, Donald J. Trump, while President, was banned from all major social media platforms after his alleged role in the January 6 attack on the capital. The Florida bill aimed to prevent politicians from being removed from social media sites in the future.

The law prevents social media companies from kicking political candidates off their platforms. According to the law, political candidates can sue social media companies if they are blocked or removed from the platforms for more than 14 days, per CNN.

While the bill has been signed into law, it has been met with legal challenges. Courts have issued injunctions to block the state from enforcing the law, and the case was recently heard in front of the United States Supreme Court.

Related: If Facebook Removes Your Post, Is It Violating Your Freedom of Speech?

Florida Law Targets Social Media Companies in 2024

On February 22, 2024, Florida legislators passed another law limiting the power social media companies have over managing their user base. This time, lawmakers weren’t intending to keep users on social media. They intended to kick them off.

House Bill 1 forbids any child under the age of 16 from using social media platforms, even if they have parental permission and supervision.

We recently covered the guidelines of the new social media ban. Under the guidelines, users would be required to submit legal identification or use a facial recognition scan to open new accounts and confirm their identities for existing accounts. Any account that does not provide age-verifying information would be suspended.

The bill was passed by both the Florida House and Senate leading it to the desk of Governor Ron Desantis. The bill’s fate now depends on Desantis and whether or not he will sign it. Last month, Desantis questioned whether the bill would lead to First Amendment challenges.

If the bill is signed by Desantis, it may end up in courts like the Florida social media law passed in 2021.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

2021 Social Media Law Goes to the Supreme Court

While it is predicted that the 2024 social media bill banning users under 16 may end up challenged in the court system, the 2021 social media law has already made its way to the US Supreme Court.

On February 26, 2024, oral arguments took place in front of the US Supreme Court regarding the Florida law that limits a social media company’s right to ban users. The case was heard along with a challenge against a similar law passed in Texas.

Solicitors general for Florida and Texas defended their states’ laws. They argued that social media sites are public forums that should not be controlled or censored, as reported by the New York Times.

Legal experts say the Supreme Court seemed skeptical of the laws. Per reporting by CNN, the justices asked questions that seemed to show that they did not agree with many aspects of the laws. They questioned the ambiguity of the classification of social media platforms and whether or not a public company can violate the First Amendment.

So, Where Do the Laws Stand Right Now?

The US Supreme Court’s ruling on the 2021 social media law will take some time. The ruling on whether or not the law is constitutional will come later this spring. In the meantime, the state of Florida will not be able to enforce the law.

The future of the 2024 social media ban remains to be seen. First, Desantis will need to decide whether or not he will sign the bill. He could send it back to legislators to ask for changes before signing it into law. And even if it does become law, it could face the same future as the 2021 law.

It is likely that the 2024 law will be challenged before it has time to be put into place, and it is likely that it could also end up in the courts, similar to the 2021 law.

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