At the time this article is being written, the Florida state legislature is considering a bill that would fine large social media platforms up to $250,000 per day for deplatforming political candidates.
Why is this proposed law being considered?
In the past couple of years, there’s been trend of suspending or terminating the social media accounts of politicians whose views are different from those of the platform owners and their employees. Perhaps the most notorious was the case of former U.S. President Donald Trump involving his Twitter and Facebook accounts.
To be clear, there’s no First Amendment speech protection that applies to social media platforms. Those free speech rights are targeted against government censorship, not social media companies.
And it remains to be seen whether social media platforms will be able to successfully sue to strike down any federal or state government restrictions imposed on their ability to discipline political candidates.
If the Florida bill becomes law and is upheld by the courts, it sends a strong signal that one cannot censor social media to favor some political candidates at the expense of others.
It’s important to note that the proposed legislation is written is such a way that it targets only the very largest social media sites. However, that’s the camel’s nose under the tent on this issue. One can easily see it being applied in the future to small social media sites and even blogs that permit comments.
If you own a social media platform, the safest path right now is to: (1) have a set of rules for users; and (2) apply those rules uniformly to users. Don’t play favorites.
And if the rules protecting political candidates become too draconian, you may want to consider banning candidates from having accounts rather than spend a small fortune for regulatory compliance.