Elon Musk’s Twitter plans could be bad news for Donald Trump’s social network. Trump had positioned his app Truth Social as Twitter’s freewheeling conservative counterpart, but if Musk takes over Twitter and loosens its moderation policies, Truth Social’s very reason for being would be under threat.
Disney and free speech
Florida’s rushed passage last week of a bill revoking Walt Disney World’s special tax status, just days after Gov. Ron DeSantis called for such a move, may look to some like a swift governmental victory. But it could end up being a political liability if it ends up burdening local taxpayers or fails a legal challenge.
The conflict was sparked when Disney objected to a Florida law prohibiting discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in public-school classrooms. Disney has not yet commented on the state’s extraordinary response. But if the company sues, the legislature’s actions could be found unconstitutional, precisely because DeSantis has been so vocal in his opposition to Disney.
Corporations are people too. For more than 50 years, Disney has run the Reedy Creek Improvement District independently and received special benefits. The repeal would end Disney’s special status in 2023, but many lawyers and free speech advocates say Florida could lose a constitutional challenge — if Disney can prove this was retribution for political speech. As “artificial persons,” companies have long had constitutional rights. At the bill signing on Friday, DeSantis referenced Disney’s position on the education law, calling it a “provocation” and vowing to “fight back.” While Disney isn’t entitled to its special district, retracting the benefit in order to punish the company for political protest appears to violate the First Amendment.
But proving retribution may not be easy. Despite DeSantis’s evident feud with Disney, the company could have trouble showing that other lawmakers were motivated by the intent to punish political speech and would not have approved the bill but for Disney’s protest. Also, because the benefits in question are unique to Disney, this particular case may get complicated and enter uncharted constitutional territory.
Democrats and Republicans are switching sides. The ideological left and right are now taking new angles in an old fight. In 2010, when the Supreme Court decided Citizens United, a case that removed limits on corporate political spending, Democrats protested that companies would have undue political influence, while Republicans cheered corporate freedoms. Now, many conservatives are angered by companies speaking up on political issues, while progressives have become the unlikely defenders of business.