Federal judge stops Florida’s ‘Big Tech’ crackdown law from going into effect

Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis mused of all the legal arguments the state will need to make in fending off lawsuits filed against controversial 2021 bills adopted by Florida’s GOP-dominated Legislature, the one challenging the state’s crackdown on ‘Big Tech’ is “the most interesting.”

“This is really new ground that we’re trotting,” DeSantis said of Senate Bill 7072, which makes “de-platforming” political candidates from a social media site punishable under Florida’s Unfair Trade Practices Act and allows social media users to sue and collect up to $100,000 for every day a site kicks them off, deletes a post, or uses its algorithms to limit exposure to their posts.

U.S. Middle District of Florida Judge Robert Hinkle late Wednesday granted CCIA’s and NetChoice’s motion for a temporary injunction in a 31-page order, preventing SB 7072 from going into effect Thursday, the start of the new fiscal year, until the lawsuit is heard.

After asking state lawyers in a Monday hearing on the injunction motion if they “ever dealt with a statute that was more poorly drafted,” Hinkle’s order comes as little surprise.

“Balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not a legitimate governmental interest,” he wrote. “And even aside from the actual motivation for this legislation, it is plainly content-based and subject to strict scrutiny … he legislation does not survive strict scrutiny. Parts also are expressly preempted by federal law.”

DeSantis and GOP leaders in Tallahassee made penalizing ‘Big Tech’ a 2021 session priority after Twitter and other social media companies banished then-President Donald Trump and other conservatives from their platforms following the U.S. Capitol riot.

“When you de-platform the President of the United States but you let Ayatollah Khomeini talk about killing Jews, that is wrong,” DeSantis said on May 24 when he signed the bill during a ceremony at Florida International University in Miami.

Claiming social media corporations have more power than the monopolies and trusts of the late 1800s, DeSantis said the new “public square” is being manipulated by censors “in pajamas on their laptop drinking a soy latte in Silicon Valley.”

Under SB 7072, social media companies must post their terms of service with standards for handling issues like censoring, de-platforming and blocking users and apply the standards consistently.

Penalties for “de-platforming” political candidates from a social media sites under the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act would be as high as $250,000 a day for statewide candidates, $25,000 per day for local candidates, under the new law.

SB 7072 also allows social media users to opt out of a platform’s algorithms that determine what appears highest on their feed and demand platforms feed them posts in the order written.

The CCIA, NetChoice and the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce were among groups applauding Hinkle’s decision to stop the law from going into effect.

“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,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said.

“When the state’s own lawyers can’t explain how the law works or even identify to whom it applies, there’s just no way that Florida’s enforcement of that law would keep users, creators and advertisers safe from the tidal wave of offensive content and hate speech that would surely ensue,” NetChoice Vice President & General Counsel Carl Szabo said.

This article was originally posted on Federal judge stops Florida’s ‘Big Tech’ crackdown law from going into effect

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