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Case Name NetChoice v. Moody FA-FL-0008
Docket / Court 4:21-cv-00220-RH-MAF ( N.D. Fla. )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
This is a case about content regulation of social-media providers in Florida. On May 27, 2021, NetChoice and Computer & Communications Industry Association (two trade associations that seek to promote and protect free speech and free enterprise on the Internet) filed this lawsuit in the Northern ... read more >
This is a case about content regulation of social-media providers in Florida. On May 27, 2021, NetChoice and Computer & Communications Industry Association (two trade associations that seek to promote and protect free speech and free enterprise on the Internet) filed this lawsuit in the Northern District of Florida. The trade associations sued Florida state officials, including the Attorney General of Florida, Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services, and the Florida Elections Commission under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Ex parte Young. Represented by private counsel, the trade associations sought an immediate injunction on a new state law that was set to go into effect on July 1, 2021. They also sought a declaration that the law was unconstitutional. They claimed that this law, Senate Bill 7072 ("Bill"), adopted by the 2021 Florida Legislature, infringed on freedom of speech, equal protection, and due process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. They also claimed that this law exceeded the state of Florida’s authority under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and was preempted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Among other provisions, the Bill would have prohibited social-media providers in Florida from barring posts by any candidate for office, even if they posted alleged misinformation, incitements to violence, or other content that violated the providers’ standards. The Bill would also have limited providers’ ability to deploy algorithms for these candidates’ posts. Furthermore, while imposing a size requirement for providers to whom it was applicable, the Bill carved out an exception for local businesses.

In June 2021, several large public interest organizations filed amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs. These included the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Internet Association.

On June 30, 2021, after briefs and oral arguments from both parties, Judge Robert Hinkle granted a preliminary injunction, enjoining “enforcement of the parts of the legislation that are preempted or violate the First Amendment.”

In its ruling, the court agreed with the plaintiffs that the Bill’s regulatory impositions about deplatforming and content control appeared to contradict federal law. Additionally, the court clarified that the First Amendment concerns government control of free speech—not private entities’ control, as the defendants suggested. Based on Supreme Court case law, the court determined that the Bill required analysis via the standard of strict scrutiny, and ultimately would not withstand it because “promoting speech on one side of an issue or restricting speech on the other… is not a legitimate state interest.”

In addition to plaintiffs’ likelihood of success, the court found the other factors for preliminary injunction easily satisfied: there would be irreparable injury to the plaintiffs without the injunction; there would be greater potential damages to plaintiffs without the injunction than damages from the injunction to defendants; and the injunction would not harm the public interest.

On July 12, 2021, Florida state officials appealed the preliminary injunction decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The appeal was assigned case number 21-12355-GG. Accordingly, on August 25, 2021, the district court stayed further proceedings until resolution of the appeal.

Achutha Raman - 09/24/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) Attorney General of Florida
Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services
Florida Elections Commission
Plaintiff Description Two trade associations of online businesses that share the goal of promoting and protecting free speech and free enterprise on the Internet
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 05/27/2021
Case Ongoing Yes
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
No documents currently in the collection

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