Federal Judge Blocks Florida Tech Censorship Law

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Florida’s law to restrict censorship by Big Tech companies has been struck down by a federal judge, on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment. The judge called the law  “riddled with imprecision and ambiguity.”

The bill would have prohibited the censorship of certain political candidates and would have allowed Florida users of tech platforms to sue over acts of censorship.

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced legislation in February, it appeared to be highly ambitious. The bill imposed new transparency requirements on the tech companies, prohibited the banning of candidates for elected office in Florida, mandatory opt-outs from tech companies’ content moderation regimes, and new powers for the Florida attorney general to prosecute tech companies.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who was appointed to his position by Bill Clinton in the 1990s, said the bill was “riddled with imprecision and ambiguity.”

Hinkle sided with the plaintiffs, trade associations representing the tech giants, in their argument that the bill violated the First Amendment rights of tech platforms.

Via the Miami Herald:

Calling it “riddled with imprecision and ambiguity,” a federal judge Wednesday blocked a new state law targeting social media behemoths such as Facebook and Twitter that can strip politicians and other users from their platforms.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction as he sided with online industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which filed the lawsuit challenging the measure pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and approved by Republican lawmakers this spring.

“The legislation now at issue was an effort to rein in social-media providers deemed too large and too liberal. Balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not a legitimate government interest,” Hinkle wrote in Wednesday’s 31-page order.

In a column for Breitbart News in April, I warned that the failure of Florida legislators to include public accommodation or common carriage rules would lead to the law getting shot down on First Amendment grounds.

Via Breitbart News:

If the bill passes in its current form, tech companies will simply argue in court that they have a First Amendment right to deny service to whomever they please. The courts will take their side, as they have done many times before.

The only types of businesses that are restricted by the government in who they can or cannot deny service to are those regulated by common carriage or public accommodation laws. Because the Florida bill does not attempt to make social media companies subject to those laws, it makes most of its other provisions meaningless.

Republican legislators can’t plead ignorance as an excuse. Justice Clarence Thomas explained how all this stuff works in a legal opinion published while Florida’s bill was still being drafted.

This leaves two possibilities, both glum: either Florida lawmakers are so incompetent that they weren’t paying attention to, or failed to comprehend what Clarence Thomas said. Or, worse: they deliberately crafted a piece of legislation that is doomed to fail in court.

Gov. DeSantis now has two options — either appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it will likely meet a similar fate, or pass an improved tech bill — with common carriage or public accommodation provisions, if he wants it to pass muster in court — in a special session of the Florida legislature.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.

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