Social Media 'Deplatforming' Law Struck Down

John Lister's picture

A federal judge has blocked a Florida law that would have made it illegal for social media sites to suspend or ban politicians from posting. The judge said the law was both discriminatory and a breach of the First Amendment.

The controversial law was first proposed in February and signed by the state's governor in May. It was scheduled to take effect on July 1st, 2021, but was blocked by US District Judge via a preliminary injunction following a case brought by trade associations including social media companies.

The law said social media companies could remove specific posts and suspend users for violating policies, but only for a maximum of 14 days. Anyone who was known to be a candidate for public office could not be suspended for longer that 14 days or permanently banned, even if they directly breached a site's policies.

Theme Park Exemption Raised Eyebrows

The federal judge said the case against the law had a reasonable chance of success and thus the injunction was necessary to prevent immediate harm.

The case alleged the law breach the constitution in several ways, most notably that saying a social media site has to publish material from a particular user is as much a violation of the First Amendment as banning it from doing so.

Another complain against the law was that it violated the Fourteenth Amendment's requirement for equal protection under the law. That's based on a particularly baffling clause in the law that gives an exemption for social media platforms that operate a theme park over a particular size in Florida. Some more cynical analysts suggested this was intentionally designed to benefit Disney. (Source:

The case also argued that the new Florida law contradicted existing federal law which say that websites which host user content have the right to remove content and this doesn't violate the legal rights of the user concerned.

Law's Aims "Not Legitimate"

The judge likened the scope of the law to "burning the house to roast a pig." He said both the wording of the law and comments made by the politicians who supported it made it clear the aim was to counter what they saw as a liberal bias on social media sites.

According to the judge, that's not an appropriate use of legislation: "Leveling the playing field - promoting speech on one side of an issue or restricting speech on the other - is not a legitimate state interest." (Source:

Although the case will continue, the judge said an injunction at this point was necessary because, based on the evidence, it was likely the final ruling will strike down parts of the bill for violating the First Amendment.

What's Your Opinion?

Should websites which host user-generated content have the right to give users long-term suspensions or permanent bans? Is the political bias (real or perceived) of websites a matter for lawmakers? Is the power of social media sites to "deplatform" users damaging to political debate?

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Chief's picture

If the judge can show a duly passed law is unlawful, the state can either rewrite the law or follow the procedure to overrule the court.

In this case, I hope the legislature does a better job rewriting the law.