Florida Gets A 1st Amendment Lesson
Your daily head start in the business of tech + filtered + focused
The most important thing in tech today is …
It’s been a busy week for federal judges and tech. On Wednesday, a federal judge temporarily squashed a Florida law that would punish tech companies for kicking political candidates off their platforms, even for violating platform rules.
From U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s injunction:
First, the State has asserted it is on the side of the First Amendment; the plaintiffs are not. It is perhaps a nice sound bite. But the assertion is wholly at odds with accepted constitutional principles. The First Amendment says “Congress” shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. The Fourteenth Amendment extended this prohibition to state and local governments. The First Amendment does not restrict the rights of private entities not performing traditional, exclusive public functions.
That’s quite the smackdown from this judge, and it addresses the central problem with Florida’s approach: It’s based on the average fourth grader’s grasp of the First Amendment, which can be summed up with: “It’s a free country, I can say what I want.”
That’s not how the First Amendment works. The First Amendment actually protects individuals and private businesses from government telling them what they can and can’t say. Arguably, Florida is trying to control the speech of private companies through this law.
The question is, have social media platforms become such a powerful mode of communication that they should be subject to different rules? to a government takeover of their terms of service? Florida’s going to appeal the decision, so we'll have to stay tuned.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s office issued a statement:
“We are disappointed by Judge Hinkle’s ruling and disagree with his determination that the U.S. Constitution protects Big Tech’s censorship of certain individuals and content over others.”
All of this is riffing on a familiar theme: politicians and regulators are worried that technology companies have gotten so powerful that they have too much influence over things government is used to controlling.
Coming up today on CNBC’s TechCheck, 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT …
Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, Astra CEO Chris Kemp
While you were sleeping …
Facebook’s head of Instagram on Wednesday announced the social network plans to start showing users full-screen, recommended videos in their feeds. CNBC
The state of Maine now has the most stringent laws regulating government use of facial recognition in the country. The new law prohibits government use of facial recognition except in specifically outlined situations, with the most broad exception being if police have probable cause that an unidentified person in an image committed a serious crime, or for proactive fraud prevention. The Verge
In the broader world …
Initial filings for unemployment insurance fell sharply last week, indicating continued improvement in the U.S. jobs market, the Labor Department reported Thursday. CNBC
President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one shot in the arms of 70% of U.S. adults before the Fourth of July holiday is set to fall short. At the current pace of vaccinations administered, about 67% of adults will be at least partially vaccinated by then, according to a CNBC analysis of CDC data. CNBC
On the horizon …
Today at 1 p.m. ET: Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon on Fortt Knox