Florida passes bill limiting Big Tech’s power to silence political enemies; DeSantis to sign
TALLAHASSEE, May 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — With an impending signature from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida is on the verge of enacting a first-of-its-kind law placing strong limits on social media giants’ ability to discriminate against conservative speech online.
The legislation, which has cleared both chambers of the state legislature, does the following:
- forbids social media platforms from intentionally deplatforming any candidate for a pending election (enforceable by fines of $250,000 per day for statewide offices and $25,000 per day for other offices), though candidates may still be suspended for fourteen days or fewer;
- recognizes free advertising provided by a platform to any candidate (which does not include ordinary user posts by a candidate) as in-kind political contributions;
- requires platforms to apply its “censorship, deplatforming, and shadow banning standards in a consistent manner” based on publicly available standards;
- requires platforms to inform users of rule changes before enforcing them and forbids rules from being changed more than once every 30 days;
- requires platforms to inform users if they have been shadow-banned and entitles users to request data on how many people saw their posts;
- requires platforms to let users opt out of algorithms that arrange content visibility by criteria other than chronology or sequential order, as well as annually notify users of this option;
- forbids platforms from applying shadow-banning algorithms to political candidates;
- requires platforms to give banned users a 60-day window in which they can retrieve their content before deletion;
- forbids the deplatforming of “a journalistic enterprise based on the content of its publication or broadcast”
“Over the years, however, these platforms have changed from neutral platforms that provided Americans with the freedom to speak to enforcers of preferred narratives,” DeSantis declared in February when he first proposed the bill. “Silicon Valley CEOs wield extraordinary power, to the point of holistically controlling the flow of vast swaths of information in our country. In a matter of hours, a business can be dismantled, a community of friends and colleagues canceled, and even a sitting president of the United States silenced.”
Defenders of tech corporations and libertarian ideologues who oppose regulating social media have concentrated their fire on an amendment added to the bill by Republican state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, which exempts “any information service, system, Internet search engine, or access software provider operated by a company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex.”
While the amendment is a clear reference to far-left entertainment giant Disney, whose park and resort are a major boon to Florida’s economy, it is also true that Disney does not own or operate any of the social media platforms currently involved in suppressing conservative speech, and many of those now attacking the amendment for narrowing the bill’s scope have previously objected to social media reform on the grounds that it could affect websites beyond Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Big Tech’s suppression of and discrimination against conservative speech has been a topic of growing concern ever since former President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory was attributed in part to his use of Twitter to spread his message, and accelerated over the past year as Google, Facebook, and Twitter appointed themselves arbiters of “misinformation” pertaining to COVID-19 and election fraud.
Since the election, and particularly the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building, those efforts have accelerated further still. The riot was used as a pretext to ban Trump from Twitter and Facebook; Facebook’s so-called “Oversight Board” upheld Trump’s ban Wednesday.
Meanwhile, signing this legislation into law will further endear DeSantis to conservatives, many of whom consider him an early frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination thanks to his conservative record in office, his handling of COVID-19 without intensive lockdowns, and his knack for parrying hostile media.
Most recently, the governor has endorsed and/or signed legislation banning left-wing critical race theory from public schools, forbidding “vaccine passports” that would coerce Floridians into taking a COVID-19 vaccine against their will, keeping gender-confused males out of girls’ athletic programs, strengthening election integrity in the Sunshine State, and increasing penalties for rioting.
LifeSite’s own Facebook page was permanently banned just yesterday. The social media giant accused LifeSite of publishing “false information about COVID-19 that could contribute to physical harm.”