Ban Trump? Not so fast. Florida is about to pass a law to stop Facebook and Twitter from censoring politicians
One of the nation’s largest states is taking on Big Tech.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is likely to sign into law a bill that would prevent social media companies Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube from “deplatforming” politicians such as former President Donald Trump.
The bill was approved Thursday by the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
It would order social media companies to publish standards with detailed definitions of when someone would be censored or blocked and make companies subject to as much as $250,000 daily fines for deplatforming a Florida candidate. The bill would require a social media company to notify users within seven days that they could be censored, giving them time to correct posts.
Republican lawmakers in Florida said legislation is needed to curb the influence the nation’s leading social media companies have over the national conversation.
"What this bill is about is sending a loud message to Silicon Valley that they are not the absolute arbiters of truth," state Rep. John Snyder, a Republican from the Port St. Lucie area, said Wednesday, according to NBC News.
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"What this bill does is send a loud message that the Constitution does not have an asterisk that says only certain speech is free and protected," he said.
The legislation is likely to face industry opposition.
“This bill abandons conservative values, violates the First Amendment, and would force websites to host antisemitic, racist, and hateful content. Content moderation is crucial to an internet that is safe and valuable for families and Floridian small businesses, but this bill would undermine this important ecosystem,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of trade group NetChoice, said in a statement to USA TODAY.
Szabo argued that the legislation would make it more difficult for conservatives to get their voices heard.
He told Florida lawmakers this month that “conservative speech has never been stronger.”
“No longer limited to a handful of newspapers or networks, conservative messages can now reach billions of people across multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Gab, Parler, Rumble and MeWe,” Szabo said. “We’ve seen the rise of conservative voices without having to beg for an op-ed in The Washington Post or New York Times or a speaking slot on CNN. Social networks allow conservative voices to easily find conservative viewers.”
Conservatives intensified attacks on social media companies after the ejection of Trump and other conservatives in response to the attack Jan. 6 on the U.S. Capitol.
DeSantis, a Republican and a Trump ally, condemned the “oligarchs in Silicon Valley” for deplatforming Trump and other conservatives.
Without citing evidence, DeSantis said Facebook, Twitter and YouTube use their size, advertising power and global reach to influence thought and play favorites – being tougher on those who comment from the political right than left.
DeSantis revived his criticism after a roundtable he held in March was taken down from YouTube because the governor and scientists he invited were accused of airing COVID-19 misinformation.
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If conservatives want to remain on social media platforms, they should follow the rules, State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando-area Democrat, told NBC News.
"There's already a solution to deplatforming candidates on social media: Stop trafficking in conspiracy theories. That's the solution. Stop pushing misinformation if you're a candidate or an incumbent elected official. Stop retweeting QAnon. Stop lying on social media," Smith said.