MIAMI, Florida, May 25, 2021, (LifeSiteNews) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has taken yet another step in his fight against Big Tech censorship by signing a bill yesterday that greatly advances the rights of Floridians regarding social media companies. Residents are now enabled to sue the companies if they are treated unfairly, and the law also preventins censorship of politicians.
Announcing the bill, which is the first of its kind, he stated that it would ensure protection from social media censorship to those living in the state of Florida.
“This session, we took action to ensure that ‘We the People’ — real Floridians across the Sunshine State — are guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites. Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in Cuba and Venezuela. If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”
The bill itself is a warning shot to any social media companies looking to practice censorship in the state. Noting that social media has become the “new public town square,” and as such hold a “unique place in preserving first amendment protections,” the bill accused social media platforms of having “unfairly censored, shadow banned, deplatformed, and applied post-prioritization algorithms to Floridians.”
As a result, Floridians will now have the right to sue Big Tech or social media companies, seeking monetary damages up to $100,000, if the companies violate the new law and enforce unfair censorship, shadow banning or deplatforming the user. Nor are social media companies able to ban users without warning, as they must now give a seven-day heads-up before a potential ban, explaining the reason underlying, and offering the chance to resolve the issue.
In addition, under the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Florida’s Attorney General will be able to pursue tech companies that violate the law. Should malpractice be proven, then the company will be placed on an “antitrust violator vendor list,” and will be prohibited from any involvement with a public entity.
A key component of bill SB 7072 is the terms it lays down with regard to social media censorship of politicians. Under the bill, it is now illegal for Big Tech to ban political candidates.
A fine of $250,000 per day will be imposed by the Florida Election Commission on any social media company which bans, or de-platforms, a candidate for statewide office.
Fines are also to be levied for similar censorship of more local political candidates, as a $25,000 per day fine will be demanded for deplatforming candidates for non-statewide offices.
“Any Floridian can block any candidate they don’t want to hear from, and that is a right that belongs to each citizen — it’s not for Big Tech companies to decide,” DeSantis’s press release stated.
“Florida is the trailblazer, yet again, on another issue that’s really important,” declared DeSantis, before signing the bill.
The bill has garnered backlash from some, ìncluding Carl Szabo, vice president of the trade group NetChoice, who told the Washington Examiner that the bill “abandons conservative values, violates the First Amendment, and would force websites to host antisemitic, racist, and hateful content.”
However, state Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R), who supported the bill, pointed to the undue influence and lobbying power which is wielded by Big Tech, and the need to curtail such power: “Big Tech has a responsibility to be fair and transparent to all of its users, regardless of our political ideology. Requiring Big Tech to define the behaviors that will lead to someone being de-platformed is a significant victory for free speech and I am grateful for our Governor’s leadership on this issue.”
“When it comes to freedom of speech, in this state, we will defend freedom of speech against digital book burners regardless of how big they are or how powerful they are, because speech is fundamental to our freedom.”
In fact, the Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez went so far as to describe the Big Tech companies as communist: “Many of our constituents know the dangers of being silenced or have been silenced themselves under communist rule. Thankfully in Florida we have a Governor that fights against big tech oligarchs that contrive, manipulate, and censor if you voice views that run contrary to their radical leftist narrative.”
The bill is the first state-wide legislation successfully brought into effect, and will significantly curtail the practices of Big Tech and social media in the state. The governor welcomed the fact that it would propose “real consequences for Big Tech oligopolies’ bottom line.”
DeSantis has previously decried social media censorship as “Orwellian,” after Google-owned video platform YouTube removed a video from DeSantis’s channel. The video was of a roundtable discussion featuring scientists and health professionals, including former White House advisor Dr. Scott Atlas, warning about the dangers and effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and mask wearing.
When explaining the reason for removing the video, YouTube pointed specifically to the discussion dealing with mask wearing for children, which the roundtable group had described as harmful and unnecessary.
“Some of our biggest media conglomerates, who claim to be avatars of the first amendment and free exchange of ideas — they’ve really become cheerleaders for censorship,” stated DeSantis at the time.