Federal judge blocks Florida's social media law

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A federal judge on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction against Florida's new social media law, which conservatives had seized on as a way to combat perceived censorship by online platforms toward former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

Set to go into effect Thursday, the law, FL SB 7072, was a top priority of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and would make it easier for the state's election commission to fine social media companies that banned political candidates in the run-up to an election, with penalties ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 a day.

The ruling: District Court Judge Robert Hinkle said that it was likely the plaintiffs — tech industry groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which count major platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google among their members — would prevail in their claim that the law was unconstitutional due to the First Amendment. Legal experts had been quick to question the validity of the law when it was signed last month.

"The legislation now at issue was an effort to rein in social-media providers deemed too large and too liberal," Hinkle wrote in his opinion. "Balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not a legitimate governmental interest."

Swift reaction: Both NetChoice and CCIA praised the court's decision, saying that if the law had gone into effect, it would have had significant consequences for what users see on the internet. NetChoice‘s president, Steve DelBianco, said in a statement that the judge's order allowed the platforms to keep their users "safe from the worst content posted by irresponsible users."

CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement: “This decision upholding the Constitution and federal law is encouraging, and reaffirms what we have been saying: Florida’s statute is an extraordinary overreach, designed to penalize private businesses for their perceived lack of deference to the Government’s political ideology. The court’s ruling is a win for internet users and the First Amendment.”

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