March 1, 2024

A judge on Wednesday blocked a law in Florida that would become the first in the nation to ban social media companies from banning political candidates.

In issuing an injunction, Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida blocked “enforcement of any portion of the law that preempts or violates the First Amendment” or any other portion of federal law.

The law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in May, fines companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for permanently banning candidates for office in the state.

Republicans like Mr DeSantis have said such laws are necessary because the platforms are skewed against conservative publishers and personalities, although many of the most successful accounts on some social media platforms belong to right-wing voices. They were particularly outraged when Facebook and Twitter banned former President Donald J. Trump after the riots in the Capitol on January 6th.

Two lobby groups representing Facebook, Google, and other tech giants – NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association – sued the law.

Judge Hinkle granted a motion to temporarily block enforcement of the law, saying the tech groups would likely be successful if the merits of the case were examined.

“The now controversial legislation was an attempt to curb social media providers who are deemed too big and too liberal,” he said. “Balancing the exchange of ideas between private speakers is not a legitimate state interest.”

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