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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Law Fighting Big Tech Censorship

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Law Fighting Big Tech Censorship

This is a dramatic act, but it’s unlikely to survive legal challenges. You’re still on your own.

You all know the problem of Big Tech. We’ve covered it dozens, maybe hundreds, of times, from casual throttling and shadow-banning of accounts, to deplatforming, to removing negative information and suppressing stories, and so on. It affects little guys (like us) and big guys (like Parler and Donald Trump), but it almost always involves people who are right of center.

The election was manipulated by Big Tech which quashed stories about Biden family influence peddling in the weeks before election day. This Big Tech censorship has influence beyond the election, with debate over important issues like whether the global pandemic resulted from a lab leak in Wuhan shut down, based on a scientific consensus enforce by Big Tech which consensus has now shifted. And there are many other issues in which Big Tech has stifled needed debate.

What to do to protect yourself is something we explored at our online event, Surviving The Big Tech Purge.

But individual action is not enough, and the federal government (now) is on the side of Big Tech censors. So it’s up to the states. And no state has been as aggressive as Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis signed today a law giving the Attorney General and individuals a right to sue:

Gov. DeSantis signed into law one of his top priorities this year: Giving individuals and the Attorney General the right to sue Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies if they limit, alter or delete content and personal user accounts.

“And so, that’s what we’re doing here today in the state of Florida, protecting everyday Floridians and ensuring that we have more speech, not less speech,” Gov. DeSantis said.

It’s called the Transparency and Technology Act. It forces social media companies to publish the standards for blocking and removing content, and those standards must be applied consistently. Changes in user rules could only be made every 30 days. And it protects political candidates from being blocked or removed.

The measure will make “social media platforms” subject to fines of $250,000 per day for blocking content of a “candidate for statewide office, and $25,000 per day for a candidate for other offices.”

But, and it’s a big but, it’s unclear if the law can survive legal challenge:

“These platforms have become our public square,” DeSantis said at a lectern with a sign that read “STOP Big Tech Censorship,” noting that “big tech oligarchs” have censored debates about the pandemic and policies that officials put in place to contain the deadly virus, such as lockdowns.

“Silicon Valley is acting as a council of censors; they cancel people when mobs come after somebody. They will pull them down,” he said.

But the measure, which takes effect July 1, is likely to get challenged in court. Critics of the bill, such as Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, have argued the legislation would compel speech onto private companies, which would violate the companies’ First Amendment rights.

It’s also legally unclear the extent to which Florida can regulate the efforts of companies that operate across state lines.

Big Tech is getting ready to challenge the law:

Net Choice, a trade group for internet companies, slammed the signing of the bill.

“The First Amendment prohibits the government from compelling or controlling speech on private websites,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, said in a statement. “If this law could somehow be enforced, it would allow lawful but awful user posts including pornography, violence, and hate speech that will make it harder for families to safely navigate online.”

“By forcing websites to host speech, this bill takes us closer to a state-run internet where the government can cherry pick winners and losers,” Szabo added.

This is a dramatic act, but it’s unlikely to survive. You’re still on your own.

Here’s the entire press conference:

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Comments

He fights

Just like someone else we know…

JusticeDelivered | May 24, 2021 at 9:51 pm

So big tech is arguing a 1st amendment right to silence others expressing 1st amendment rights’. Orwell is rolling over in his grave. .

    Milhouse in reply to JusticeDelivered. | May 25, 2021 at 1:13 am

    Um, no. The 1st amendment does not bind anyone except the USA and (via the 14th) the states and their subsidiaries. Nobody has a right to express anything on facebook or twitter, any more than anyone has a 1st amendment right to do so here on Legal Insurrection. And the owners of platforms such as facebook, twitter, and LI absolutely do have a right, protected by the 1st amendment, to prevent people from expressing anything on their platforms that they don’t like. For the state of Florida to compel them to host speech they don’t like violates the 1st amendment. That’s a simple fact that nobody who knows the first thing about the constitution will dispute.

    However it looks like this act is more limited than that. It just requires them to publish objective rules and stick to them, and not modify them too frequently. That’s a closer question. That may pass muster.

    But not the bit about compelling them to give a platform to anyone who is running for office; that’s completely unconstitutional and indefensible.

      How did you forgot about the Equal Time rule? —

      “The federal equal time rule requires broadcasters to treat a candidate for the same political office identically to every other candidate for that office. If a radio or television station sells air time to one candidate, the rule states that it must offer to sell the same amount of time to other candidates for that office.”

      Some see equal time rule as a First Amendment violation, but it remains enforced:

      https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/949/equal-time-rule

        Milhouse in reply to TheFineReport.com. | May 25, 2021 at 4:03 am

        How did you miss the key word “broadcasters“? They are licensed, and are required to serve the public interest as a condition of their licenses. It is obvious that this doesn’t and can’t apply to these services, which are fully protected by the first amendment, and thus can’t be subject to licensing in the first place, let alone to content regulations as a condition of such licensing. Congress can no more require Facebook to have a license than it can the New York Times.

      Danny in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 12:53 pm

      It is the public square which could be regulated by government, and is regulated by government.

      “Government bad private good” is a slogan that has become utterly destructive for our side we had two years to do something about this but no “government baaaaaaad big tech in bed with the federal government good because it is (maybe a tenth?) private”

      It is not unconstitutional for government to protect the interests of millions of people, and fight for fair elections within the United States in practice or fight against the rise of an oligarchy.

      Standard Oil was never anywhere near the power of any big tech company.

        Milhouse in reply to Danny. | May 25, 2021 at 4:34 pm

        It is not a public square; it is private property. Exactly like your living room. It doesn’t belong to the public, and the government can’t and doesn’t regulate it.

        “Government bad private good” is a slogan that has become utterly destructive for our side

        It’s what defines our side. There’s no point in us having a side if we ditch it. The moment you start talking like 0bama, “You didn’t build that”, what distinguishes you from him?

          MIlhouse: Exactly like your living room.

          A slightly better example might be the local diner, which may be said to act as a “town square.” But it’s not a town square. It’s private property, and the proprietors can kick someone out if they so choose.

“…where the government can cherry pick winners and losers…”

Coming from the trade group, this is rich: The social media bigwigs in cahoots with The Left® are the only ones who can cherry pick winners and losers, I suppose.

    Milhouse in reply to Rab. | May 25, 2021 at 1:31 am

    They are not the government. There’s no reason they shouldn’t try to pick winners. But government has no business doing so.

      Rab in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 9:28 am

      Of course. But the cozy arrangement between the social media bigwigs and The Left® is NOT something I’m ok with. What about you?

      Danny in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 12:55 pm

      Ok then lets get rid of section 230 every single objectionable post they got sued just like a publisher.

      Or we could throw Ayn Rand under the bus and pass legislation that is perfectly constitutional (i.e. protecting our freedom of speech in the public square).

        Milhouse in reply to Danny. | May 25, 2021 at 4:40 pm

        Ok then lets get rid of section 230 every single objectionable post they got sued just like a publisher.

        They aren’t publishers. Not because § 230 says so but because they aren’t, and pretending they are would make you a damned liar. And that means making them liable for content they did not create, have never seen, and aren’t on notice that it’s illegal, would be not only wrong but unconstitutional.

        Or we could throw Ayn Rand under the bus and pass legislation that is perfectly constitutional (i.e. protecting our freedom of speech in the public square).

        Such legislation is not constitutional. The key part of “public forum” is that it is public.

healthguyfsu | May 24, 2021 at 11:34 pm

“The First Amendment prohibits the government from compelling or controlling speech on private websites,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, said in a statement. “If this law could somehow be enforced, it would allow lawful but awful user posts including pornography, violence, and hate speech that will make it harder for families to safely navigate online.”

Well, this turd line is a flat out lie. The bill itself says that sites may regulate speech on their private sites, but on the other hand, they must provide terms of what is deemed bannable and removable and they must enforce those standards evenly across political lines.

    Milhouse in reply to healthguyfsu. | May 25, 2021 at 1:29 am

    This is true, in almost all cases. Szabo must have not bothered to find out what the law says before condemning it. The one case in which it would be true is if someone came up with something offensive in a novel way, that the platform owner had not anticipated and had therefore not put in the rules. The platform could not censor that until it had changed the rules, and it can’t change them more often than once a month.

    As for enforcing the standards evenly across political lines, the standards themselves may be political. A platform owner may declare that it finds socialism offensive, and reserves the right to delete any content that it deems too supportive of socialism.

      Again —

      Equal Time rule:

      “The federal equal time rule requires broadcasters to treat a candidate for the same political office identically to every other candidate for that office. If a radio or television station sells air time to one candidate, the rule states that it must offer to sell the same amount of time to other candidates for that office.”

      Some see equal time rule as a First Amendment violation, but it remains enforced:

      https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/949/equal-time-rule

        Milhouse in reply to TheFineReport.com. | May 25, 2021 at 4:04 am

        Again, you idiot, broadcasters.

          SuddenlyHappyToBeHere in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 12:27 pm

          Milhouse, you continue to argue with idiots on this site. TFR is just the most extreme of the crew. Why bother? He is too dense to comprehend.

          Danny in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 12:59 pm

          In what way is Facebook not a broadcaster?

          So government can give facebook a big boost by giving it an artificial definition as a “platform” and when it acts instead as a broadcaster it can’t legislate a solution to force it to behave like a platform?

          By the way what was mentioned as objectionable in 230 doesn’t imply that a double standard where facebook rigs national elections was the intent of 230.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 4:44 pm

          In what way is Facebook not a broadcaster? Facebook is not a broadcaster because it doesn’t broadcast, How does that require stating? How is it not completely obvious?

          Do you seriously think the government could require Facebook to get a license? What about the NYT? Or LI? On what conceivable grounds could it do so?

      Danny in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 12:56 pm

      “In good faith”

      I’m sorry but how on earth you think double standards are “in good faith” is a bit beyond me.

        Milhouse in reply to Danny. | May 25, 2021 at 5:05 pm

        Huh? Whom are you quoting there? “In good faith” are your own words, not anyone else’s.

AF_Chief_Master_Sgt | May 24, 2021 at 11:41 pm

We’re fucked. Even Legal Insurrection is shadow banning comments.

I tried to post commentary, and poof! Gone.

    LI Editor: is he right?

      Milhouse in reply to TheFineReport.com. | May 25, 2021 at 1:14 am

      Probably not, but maybe. Certainly some comments are not allowed here, and are deleted on sight. As is completely right and proper, since this is private property.

        Danny in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 1:00 pm

        To be specific a publisher, if he had posted something here Jacobson would have been fully accountable if say he had slandered someone, or if he had threatened someone etc like any publisher.

          Milhouse in reply to Danny. | May 25, 2021 at 5:12 pm

          If Prof J wrote something illegal here in the comment section he’d be liable whether or not he’s a publisher.

          As publisher of the blog itself, he (or rather WAJ Media) is liable for anything the contributors post.

          What he is not liable, and can’t be made liable, for is what we write in the comment section, which is a forum that he provides but does not publish. Each of us publishes our own comments and we are liable for them; he is not, even though he has the full right to delete them if he doesn’t like them. Only if he is on notice that a specific comment is illegal, and he makes a positive decision not to delete it, does he become liable for it.

          That’s what § 230 says, but it was also the law before § 230. It’s required by the first amendment. The Supreme Court held that way decades ago in the case of bookstores, and there is no significant difference between a bookstore and facebook or the LI comment section. They operate the same way.

Prof J, what is your perspective on this law, as the proprietor of a platform that is presumably subject to it? Do you intend to comply with it? To defy it? To ignore it since Florida has no jurisdiction over you?

Suppose Ilhan Omar signs up for an account and proceeds to post outright nazi propaganda; as a candidate for office would you accept that you can’t block or censor her?!

    henrybowman in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 6:06 am

    The idea of jurisdiction is interesting. I noticed immediately that there were two levels of fine proposed, a big one for statewide office candidates, and a smaller one for “other candidates.” Clearly it affects only Florida candidates, not national candidates such as Trump (note also that suppressing Trump would get you the smaller fine, if so). Does it affect the races of US senators and representatives from Florida? Interesting question.

    Danny in reply to Milhouse. | May 25, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    Ilhan Omar has posted anti-Semitic things and has not been punished in any way which makes your analogy a bit on the weak side.

      Milhouse in reply to Danny. | May 25, 2021 at 5:17 pm

      Not here, she hasn’t. If she did start commenting here I would expect her comments to be watched carefully by the moderators, and if she started posting antisemitism I would expect one of two things: Either the moderators would delete the comments and perhaps block her account, or they would highlight those comments and draw the maximum of attention to them so everyone would see exactly what she is. The second is more likely than the first, but who could deny that the first must be an option?

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