On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked recently enacted Florida legislation spearheaded by Republican governor Ron DeSantis prohibiting Big Tech companies from de-platforming political figures and engaging in censorship against conservative users.
In his decision, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled that the law infringed upon the corporations’ First Amendment rights and directed the state to suspend implementation until a final ruling is released.
“Balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not a legitimate governmental interest,” Hinkle said. “And even aside from the actual motivation for this legislation, it is plainly content-based and subject to strict scrutiny.”
“It is also subject to strict scrutiny because it discriminates on its face among otherwise-identical speakers,” he added.
Two technology industry groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, representing tech companies Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google, sued the state of Florida over the law which bans them from “de-platforming” politicians who express objectionable voices using their services. The plaintiffs alleged in the complaint that the law included a “smorgasbord of constitutional violations” and subsequently sought preliminary and permanent injunctions to halt its implementation.
The legislation allows Florida to fine a company $250,000 as penalty for “willfully deplatforming” political candidates and allows private citizens to sue tech companies for up to $100,000 if it is determined that they violated the law.
“We cannot stand idly by as Florida’s lawmakers push unconstitutional bills into law that bring us closer to state-run media and a state-run internet,” NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo said in a statement. “The First Amendment protects social media platforms’ right to host and moderate content as they see fit for their business models and users.”
The lawsuit stated that private companies have the authority to make their own content-moderation policies to protect their services and business model from problematic content.
DeSantis and Florida Republicans believe that the law will protect consumers, particularly conservatives, from getting their accounts dismantled and voices silenced by silicon valley companies that don’t share their political views.