Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: Florida Man Regulates Social Media

Jen Patja Howell, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Alan Z. Rozenshtein
Thursday, July 15, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

On May 24, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill designed to limit how social media platforms can moderate content. Technology companies, predictably, sued—and on June 30, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida granted a preliminary injunction against the law.

The legislation, which purported to end “censorship” online by “big tech,” received a lot of commentary and a great deal of mockery from academics and journalists. Among other things, it included an exemption for companies that operate theme parks. But Alan Rozenshtein argues in a piece for Lawfare that though the law may be poorly written, the issues raised by the litigation are worth taking seriously. This week on our Arbiters of Truth miniseries on our online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alan—an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School and a senior editor at Lawfare—about the Florida legislation.

What exactly would the law have done, anyway? Why does Alan think the judge underplays the potential First Amendment considerations raised by private companies exerting control over huge swaths of the online public sphere? And what’s with the theme park stuff?

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Alan Z. Rozenshtein is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, a senior editor at Lawfare, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he served as an Attorney Advisor with the Office of Law and Policy in the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.

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