fbpx

Social Media Restrictions Law in Florida Stymied: Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction

Social media networks and platforms have been on the scene for more than a decade now. They’ve ballooned to a whopping 689 million users 🧑‍💻 and counting for Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok 🤳. Millions of users are now using these social media platforms—apps and websites alike—to make connections and voice their opinions. Because of that, judges are questioning social media restrictions.

If you are one of these millions of active users, you must also know that these apps 📱 and websites also have their respective constitutional rights and protections. Gov. Ron DeSantis attempted to further this when he signed Florida Senate Bill 7072 on May 24, 2021, in Miami, Florida. The new law restricts social media networks, but some argue that it went too far—including a U.S. District judge, who issued a preliminary injunction while the law is being reviewed. Here’s what the law entails and why some powerful voices 🗣️ are dissenting. 

The New Florida Law: SB 7072

SOCIAL MEDIA RESTRICTIONS

Florida Senate Bill 7072 accomplishes a few different things. It: 

  • Enforces fines amounting to a maximum of $250,000 a day on networks or websites that ban statewide political candidates, especially those vying for public office
  • Prevents social media giants from blocking 🛑 users’ content
  • Permits Floridians to sue technology firms or groups if they feel they’ve received unfair treatment
  • Creates an “antitrust violator blacklist” that bans or prohibits 🚫social media companies from doing any business with public entities in the state. Any online company accused of breaching the antitrust law will be added to the list.

The law excludes businesses or companies that own and operate a theme park 🎡 or a large entertainment complex🏟️, such as Disney and Comcast Universal. Republican Representative Blaise Ingoglia explained that the exemption is necessary to protect these big companies since Florida’s economy benefits from them. Disney World Park in Orlando contributes a significant amount of tax 💰 revenue for Florida. Some also speculate that the state Attorney General could override the ban list to exempt similarly favored businesses.

As you can see, this law calls for drastic changes in the social media operation in Florida. Social media giants must now make alterations 🚨 to the terms of their content moderation in order to comply. Otherwise, they could face hefty fines and, of course, prosecution.

The Lawsuit 

NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, two online organizations, immediately filed a lawsuit against the measure. The lawsuit argues a number of points:

  • SB 7072 breaches the First Amendment
  • The exemption of Disney and Comcast clearly breaches the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment
  • The act of forcing the social media platforms to display and offer content that goes against 🚫 their terms of service would anger 😡 advertisers and users
  • Lawmakers, together with Gov. DeSantis, devised the bill for the purpose of threatening the platforms with policies they don’t agree with ❌

The Judge’s Reaction to the New Social Media Restrictions

US District Judge Robert Hinkle took action in the case by issuing a preliminary injunction. This sides with NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association. The injunction prevents the law from going into effect until its legality is tested in court.

The hearing did not go well for the state of Florida. Judge Hinkle left no question about his thoughts on the new law.

Judge Hinkle stated that the law was “at odds with accepted constitutional principles; wholly at odds.” He stated that the law has obviously distorted the idea of free speech 🗣️ protections. Private companies have the right to decide on whatever content they wish to display, he argued. He peppered opposing lawyers with questions and further said that the law offered only vague definitions of “platforms affected.”

What Will Happen Next?

Since tech companies 👨‍💻 and businesses are not delighted with SB 7072, the lawsuit and arguments continue. Critics are calling the bill’s terms unconstitutional. They say it prevents the de-platforming of users who are strongly airing their political views through social networks. Social networks, they say, are modern-day spaces and town squares for public discourse.

Matt Schruers of the Coalition for International Criminal Court (CICC) also welcomed the last ruling of the federal judge. This global organization is dedicated to fair rulings in court systems in any country. 

The great news for critics and for Judge Hinkle is that SB 7072 remains a state law, not a federal one. This means that federal courts can override it since it clashes with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and First Amendment.

Since this is such a unique law, the outcome of this case is important. It could determine whether other states with political leanings similar to Florida take equivalent action. 

In a country where free speech 🗣️ is so paramount, it’s understandable why this law came to pass. However, trying to regulate the actions of private companies opens up a whole new can of worms. Many feel that course of action won’t fix the problem.

If you feel your rights or the rights of your company have been breached, consult a social media attorney. Reach out to us today to protect your rights. 💪