Florida Social Media Law Halted, Ohio GOP Drops Muni Broadband Ban, Online Privacy Protections For Children

Judge rules against Florida social media law, Ohio GOP cuts muni broadband ban, Democrats want increased child privacy protections.

Florida Social Media Law Halted, Ohio GOP Drops Muni Broadband Ban, Online Privacy Protections For Children
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

July 1, 2021 – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a new Florida law that would restrict the ability of some social media companies to remove from their platforms content and political figures may violate First Amendment rights.

The law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in May and scheduled to go into effect on Thursday, would have penalized social media companies for banning political candidates, in light of recent activity surrounding big tech companies removing influential Republican figures like former President Donald Trump.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida Tallahassee division imposed a temporary ban on the law coming into effect until a full determination of the case is made.

A week after the signing of the bill, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association – who represent large tech companies like Amazon, Google, Intel and Facebook – filed the lawsuits on which Hinkle made his ruling.

The “plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their claim that these statutes violate the First Amendment,” Hinkle wrote in the decision.

Some believe the state will appeal, according to a press release from TechFreedom. The state views social media companies – long protected by a provision, Section 230, that protects them from legal liability for the content their users post on their platforms – as “common carriers,” the notion that these companies simply provide the platform for information and don’t get involved in what is and isn’t posted on their websites.

Ohio GOP drops municipal broadband ban

The Ohio GOP has dropped an amendment from their most recent budget bill that would’ve banned municipal broadband builds in the state.

According to multiple outlets, the axed provision would have both forced existing municipal networks to shut down and prevent new public infrastructure from being built. The amendment was challenged due to the lack of debate within the public domain.

The House had managed to drop the amendment in time for both houses of the legislature to get the bill to Governor Mike Dewine’s desk by the June 30 deadline.

In May, Ohio passed into law a bill that created its first residential broadband program. The program offers grants to ensure broadband access is rolled out to parts of the state where it would not be cost-productive to build networks.

Democrats call on companies to enforce stronger online protection for children

One Senate and two House Democrats are calling on big tech companies to enforce stronger online protections for underage users, as they and advocates push for those stronger protections to be implemented in legislation.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Florida, signed a letter dated Wednesday and directed at the major tech companies asking that similar rules made in the United Kingdom be applied in the United States to bolster privacy for young people.

The members, for example, want the age for privacy protections raised to 13 years and older — instead of just under 13 in the US — as the companies apply in the UK. Advocates have asked those measured to be codified in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

“It is imperative that Congress acts with urgency to enact a strong privacy law for children and teens in the 21st century,” the letter reads.

The UK law, called the Age Appropriate Design Code, is expected to go into effect for all online companies by Sept. 2, 2021.

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