MIAMI (Legal Newsline) – A vacation rental website alleges a Florida city's ordinance regarding online advertising for rentals is unconstitutional.
Airbnb Inc. filed a complaint on Jan. 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against the city of Miami Beach citing the Communications Decency Act and the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
According to the complaint, in September 2018, the city of Miami Beach enacted an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals. The plaintiff alleges the enacted version was not the same version as the one originally proposed.
"Specifically, it required internet platforms like Airbnb—under threat of monetary penalty—to add mandatory fields to their websites for users to input registration numbers required by the city, for the platforms to police the validity of the content input by the users, and for the platforms to take down any content that appeared to be in violation," the suit states.
The suit states the ordinance compels the defendant to "police speech" on its platform before it accepts items for publication.
The plaintiff alleges the ordinance imposes duties and obligations on it that treats it "as the publisher or speaker of information provided by another information content provider and derive from Airbnb’s status as a publisher or speaker of third-party content" in violation of the Communications Decency Act.
"The ordinance violates the First Amendment because it imposes content-based restrictions on commercial speech by requiring online hosting platforms to alter, monitor, remove, and prohibit the publication of advertisements that are not illegal on their face to avoid severe penalties," the suit states.
The plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, award reasonable costs, attorneys' fees, and such other further relief as the court deems just and proper. It is represented by David M. Buckner of Buckner + Miles in Miami.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Case number 1:19-cv-20045-RNS