Last year, Florida passed a deeply flawed law that would have prohibited Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other large social media companies from “de-platforming” political candidates.
The measure -- which was blocked by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee last year -- would have subjected companies with more than 100 million users (or at least $100 million in revenue) to fines of up to $250,000 a day for banning candidates for statewide office, or suspending their accounts for more than 14 days.
That part of the law alone is clearly problematic. Social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are private companies, which in the U.S. have a First Amendment right to decide for themselves what material to publish.
But the bill was placed on even shakier legal ground by a provision exempting theme park owners -- including Disney (owner of Walt Disney World).
State legislator Blaise Ingoglia said at the time that the purpose of the exemption was to prevent the streaming service Disney Plus from getting “caught up in this.”
The carve-out also allows Disney to purchase Twitter (or any other service) and then ignore the “de-platforming” restrictions that apply to other social media platforms.
When Hinkle blocked enforcement of Florida's law, he wrote that the theme-park exception “discriminates on its face among otherwise-identical speakers.”
Florida is appealing Hinkle's injunction to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is scheduled to hear arguments on April 28.
In recent weeks, Disney fell out of favor with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis after promising to fight for a repeal of the so-called “Don't Say Gay” law, which restricts classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity.
DeSantis retaliated by calling on lawmakers to pass new measures aimed at Disney -- including one that rescinds the theme-park exception to the social media law. On Wednesday, the Florida Senate did so; lawmakers in the Florida House haven't yet voted.
“I am pleased to see that Florida may remove the theme park exception to its Big Tech legislation,” he tweeted this week. “The district court cited that exception in support of its decision to stay the law. It’s important that common sense laws regulating these digital networks go into effect.”