Judge Robert Hinkle sided with two groups that represented tech giants and blocked a Florida social media law that would have imposed penalties for social media companies that attempt to de-platform or “censor” individuals.
The ruling, a preliminary injunction, will prevent the enactment of the law, which could fine companies as much as $250,000 a day and was scheduled to take effect on July 1.
The judge slammed the arguments presented by attorneys supporting the law, agreeing with the companies’ arguments that the law restricts their First Amendment rights. “Like prior First Amendment restrictions, this is an instance of burning the house to roast a pig,” he said.
Further, he took issue with the law because its focus is solely on large companies — platforms that have annual gross revenues of more than $100 million or have at least 100 million monthly participants globally.
“As the Supreme Court has recognized, discrimination between speakers is often a tell for content discrimination. That is the case here. The state has suggested no other basis for imposing these restrictions only on the largest providers,” Hinkle wrote in his opinion.
Additionally, the judge criticized a provision in the law that would protect certain theme-park operators from these penalties. He argued the legislation “discriminates on its face among otherwise-identical speakers: between social-media providers that do or do not meet the legislation’s size requirements and are not under common ownership with a theme park.”
Throughout the arguments, the judge repeatedly expressed his doubts over the law.
“I won’t put you on the spot and ask you if you’ve ever dealt with a statute that was more poorly drafted,” he asked while questioning the attorneys supporting the law.
Overall, the state faced an uphill battle in its arguments to win the case. Some federal laws limit the authority of individual states to implement laws to regulate various social media companies.
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