Judge Blocks Florida Law Regulating Social Media Companies

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A judge on Wednesday blocked a Florida law that would be the first in the nation to prohibit social media companies from barring political candidates.

In granting a preliminary injunction, Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida blocked “enforcement of the parts of the legislation that are pre-empted or violate the First Amendment” or are covered by other parts of federal law.

The legislation, which was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, would fine companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter if they permanently bar candidates for office in the state.

Republicans like Mr. DeSantis have said that such laws are necessary because the platforms are skewed against conservative publishers and personalities, even though many of the most successful accounts on some social media platforms belong to right-leaning voices. They were particularly incensed when Facebook and Twitter barred former President Donald J. Trump after the riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Two lobbying groups that represent Facebook, Google and other tech giants — NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association — sued to block the law.

Judge Hinkle granted a request to block the law from being enforced on a preliminary basis, saying the tech groups were likely to be successful when the merits of the case were considered.

“The legislation now at issue was an effort to rein in social-media providers deemed too large and too liberal,” he said. “Balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not a legitimate governmental interest.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.