by Liberty McArtor • 5 min read
In recent years, it’s become clear that social media giants may have misled the public about allowing intellectual diversity on their platforms. We’ve seen the opposite of a free forum for diverse expression: Big Tech selectively applying their standards to censor disfavored conservative and religious speech.
First Liberty is fighting on this critical legal battlefront to put a stop to Big Tech censorship of religious voices and content online. Our legal team is representing The Babylon Bee and Not the Bee, two Christian satirical news websites that have faced increasing censorship and “shadow banning” on social media.
Our legal team recently filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in support of a Florida law requiring Big Tech companies to treat users fairly. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law earlier this year, but it is being challenged in federal court. In defending the law, the State cited The Babylon Bee as a prime example of the social media users whom the law protects.
Our brief lays out the case that Florida’s law is a basic consumer-protection regulation that simply holds social media platforms accountable to the image of neutrality that they project. In particular, we explain why requiring social media companies to transparently announce and evenly apply their own rules is consistent with federal law and the First Amendment.
Evidence shows that rather than applying their content standards neutrally across the board, social media companies—such as Facebook—have selectively applied their rules in order to censor religious and conservative users.
As First Liberty documents in the brief:
“America’s social media titans shattered Congress’s expectations for a user-centric, free, and intellectually diverse Internet by repeatedly targeting conservative viewpoints for censorship through the selective and inconsistent application of ever-shifting ‘standards.’”
Both The Babylon Bee and Not the Bee have experienced such censorship and would benefit from the protection offered by Florida’s law.
“We just want the tech companies to be transparent about what the rules are and then apply them equally,” said Seth Dillon, CEO of The Babylon Bee. “At a minimum, we want social media platforms to evenhandedly apply their content standards.”
When Congress passed the Communications Decency Act of 1996, it envisioned an Internet where all Americans would have an equal platform to advocate their views and have control over the information they received.
For millions of religious and conservative users, businesses and organizations, social media platforms are essential in order for them to have a meaningful and effective online presence. However, social media companies have not only monopolized today’s “public square” and the exchange of ideas, they have also crushed the ideal of an intellectually diverse social media universe by applying content standards more harshly on those with religious and conservative views.
Bottom line, true religious freedom and free expression cannot exist while Americans with traditional and religious beliefs are being targeted or censored.
Restoring an Equal Virtual Playing Field
It’s important to understand that Florida’s law does not tell social media companies what their user standards should be. It allows social media companies to implement whatever user standards they want—it requires only that those standards be applied fairly to all users, and that the companies be transparent about what those standards are.
Under Florida’s law, all social media users would enjoy at least an equal playing field, rather than some being allowed to fly above the rules while others are punished for their viewpoints.
In short, it’s dangerous when Big Tech monopolies have the power to decide what speech is acceptable and what is not. That’s why First Liberty is standing with The Babylon Bee and Not the Bee with our most recent legal filing.
By ensuring content standards will not be inconsistently applied to target disfavored viewpoints—including traditional religious viewpoints—Florida’s law will help ensure the Internet remains a forum for truly diverse discourse.