Judge blocks Florida’s social media law that punishes political bans


A federal judge has blocked the implementation of a new Florida law that imposes financial penalties on tech platforms that ban nominations statewide.

US District Judge Robert L. Hinkle on Wednesday issued an injunction preventing the law from going into effect on Thursday.

The law allows the Florida Election Commission to fine social media platforms $250,000 each day if a statewide candidate is removed from the platform or removed from service. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis backed the law, saying it created an opportunity for Floridans to sue and get monetary damages.

NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association contested the law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment’s free speech protections, arguing that Florida could not force companies to approve speech that violated its terms or that was threatening.

Judge Hinkle’s ruling for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida said that those who opposed the law were likely to win the case for violating the First Amendment.

“First, the State claimed to be on the side of the First Amendment; not the plaintiffs. Maybe it’s a nice sound bite. However, the claim completely contradicts the accepted constitutional principles,” he said.

The judge wrote that if he doesn’t issue an injunction against the law, Florida will sometimes require plaintiffs to speak, and other times prohibit plaintiffs from speaking “all in violation of their editorial decisions.”

“The legislation at issue now was an effort to rein in social media providers as being too big and too liberal,” Judge Hinkle wrote. “It is not in a legitimate government interest to balance the exchange of ideas between private speakers.”

The decision was applauded by libertarian and progressive advocates who oppose Florida’s unconstitutional interference in the functions of social media and tech companies.

Ari Cohn, a lawyer for TechFreedom, a libertarian group that supports plaintiffs who oppose Florida laws, said, “Political spectacle may make you headlines, but most of the time it doesn’t get you a law that goes in court, @GovRonDeSantis.”

Pressured by Florida’s allies to crack down on social media companies, they saw the judge’s decision as further proof that a law was needed to rein in big tech companies.

“Guess what is clearly constitutional? Mike Davis, founder of the Conservative Internet Accountability Project, tweeted in response to the judge’s order. “End #BigTech’s #AntitrustAmnesty. Dismantle the (awakening) trillion-dollar monopolists.”

The federal judge’s decision in Florida was the second major blow to plaintiffs challenging major tech companies this week. On Monday, a federal judge in Washington dismissed antitrust lawsuits filed against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general of 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam.

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