Florida is poised to become the first state to impose fines of up to $250,000 a day on social networking platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube for ‘deplatforming’ politicians.
Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is expected to sign the measure, a direct nod to his loyal political friend, former President Donald Trump, who has been barred from most social media outlets after the January 6 terrorist attack on the nation’s capital.
The bill is S.B. 7072, and it was passed in the House with a 77-38 vote and in the Senate, 23-17.
The bill will make it illegal for social media companies to delete or block politicians indefinitely.
“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.
“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.
Suspensions of up to 14 days would be permitted, and websites would be able to delete individual posts that violated terms of service, according to the bill.
The bill also allows Florida’s elections commission to levy penalties against social media sites who refuse to enable candidates who have been banned to use their websites.
The bill will be sent back to the Senate for a revised House version that calls for social media sites to be charged $25,000 a day if a campaign candidate is deplatformed, and $250,000 if the politician is a statewide candidate seeking public office.
This is an increase from the Senate’s previous version of the bill, which called for gubernatorial candidates to receive $100,000 a day and other candidates to receive $10,000 a day.
Democrats say the bill is a political response to Trump’s removal from Facebook and Twitter after he began to share false claims about the 2020 election following the Capitol riots.
“Stop inciting insurrection against our republic. We’re hearing this bill because Twitter finally deplatformed former President Trump after five people were killed in an insurrection he incited at the U.S. Capitol,” Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith stated in a debate on the bill, NBC News reported.
“This bill is not about President Trump,” Republican state Rep. John Snyder rebutted. “This bill is about the 22 million Floridians and their First Amendment rights.”
During a hearing, Net Choice, an internet trade organization, testified against the measure, claiming that it would breach the corporations’ free expression rights.
“The First Amendment makes clear that government may not regulate the speech of private individuals or businesses. This includes government action that compels speech by forcing a private social media platform to carry content that is against its policies or preferences,” NetChoice President Steve DelBianco said.
“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.
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.”
According to azcentral.com, DeSantis has criticized the ‘oligarchs of Silicon Valley’ for deplatforming Trump and other conservatives.
In terms of censorship, DeSantis claims that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are harsher on the political right.
DeSantis’ assertion was resurrected when a roundtable he organized in March was taken down from YouTube after the governor and scientists he welcomed were suspected of spreading COVID-19 disinformation.
If conservatives want to remain on social media platforms, they should follow the rules State Rep. Smith 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.