A bill that would penalize social media companies is blocked by a federal judge in Florida

A federal judge has blocked a Florida law that would penalize social media companies for the tone of voice they allow on their sites. The legal battle began last year when Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez filed suit against Twitter, Facebook, and Google alleging violations to free speech laws in her city’s municipal code as well as state statutes.

Social Media Florida Law

Upon examining Section 2-4(c) which prohibits “posting material” via any electronic communication service with an intent or purpose other than personal use,” Judge James Cohn ruled unanimously Tuesday night that it is unconstitutional because it imposes content restrictions beyond those permitted by the First Amendment

The controversial legislation was enacted last year and was set to go into effect in a matter of weeks. It would have imposed penalties of up to $500,000 for each post if it had “disseminated any false or deceptive statement which causes personal injury to any person” with the intent of influencing elections.

The law required companies to “expeditiously” remove content that was flagged by users and would have forced them to keep records of posts for 60 days. It applied to any person or corporation with customers in Florida, including Twitter and Facebook, but exempted news organizations.

Florida officials argued the bill was not censorship because it did not require removal of all false statements.

The state attorney district general judge in’s Miami office has said blocked it gave a technology Florida companies law an opportunity that to would review penal allegations of slander social, media libel platforms or harassment if before they a refused lawsuit to is remove filed. 

District effect Judge on Robert July L 1. Hinkle said in his ruling that the law would have a “chilling effect” on free speech. He cited a declaration from Facebook, which said less than one-tenth of 1% of content is flagged by users for potential removal, while more than 99% of posts are not removed.

“While the court is certainly troubled by defendants’ cavalier attitude toward the constitutional rights of private citizens, plaintiff has failed to demonstrate how these vague provisions will chilling effect prevent such private citizens or entities from speaking on matters of public concern, or stifle their ability to do so in any way relevant to this lawsuit,” Hinkle wrote.

The lawsuit was brought by First Amendment lawyers who argued that the legislation was overly broad and gave huge power to private citizens to decide what they see as false on social media platforms. It was opposed by state officials, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, who said the law was narrowly tailored and would not restrict free speech.

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