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Judge nixes ‘Big Tech’ measure

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by PAT RAIA, [email protected]

A US District Court judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the new Florida law intended to protect Floridians from being censored by Big-Tech firms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Apple, Amazon, and Google on grounds that the measure violates the First Amendment.

The Transparency in Technology Act forbids so-called big tech firms from using algorithm manipulation to prevent established news organizations and qualified political candidates from reaching users. It authorizes the Florida Election Commission to fine violators $250,000 per day on any social media company that de-platforms any candidate for statewide office, and $25,000 per day for de-platforming candidates for non-statewide offices. and requires all social media platforms to clearly communicate and obtain user consent before making frequent changes to their terms of use. Floridians who feel they have been treated unfairly may sue violators of the new law and win monetary damages.

The Act was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 24 and was slated to go into effect on July 1.

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Shortly after it was signed, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) quickly challenged the measure claiming that it violated tech companies’ rights under the First Amendment.

On June 30, Judge Robert Hinkle of the US District Court of Northern Florida issued his ruling preventing some of the law from taking effect on grounds that they “preempt or violate the First Amendment.”

The legislation compels providers to host speech that violates their standards—speech they otherwise would not host—and forbids providers from speaking as they otherwise would,” Hinkle wrote in his 31-page opinion. “The Governor’s signing statement and numerous remarks of legislators show rather clearly that the legislation is viewpoint-based. And parts contravene a federal statute.”

DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said that the Governor will continue to defend the new measure.

We are disappointed by Judge Hinkle’s ruling and disagree with his determination that the U.S. Constitution protects Big Tech’s censorship of certain individuals and content over others,” Pushaw said in a written statement. “We are evaluating the legal options at our disposal to fight this preliminary ruling as we continue to vehemently defend the new law.”

DeSantis plans to appeal the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Pushaw said.

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Editor’s Note: 7/5/21 6:44 pm, Information was added regarding the challenge by NetChoice and CCIA.

 

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