MIAMI, Fla. – A new law in Florida designed to power check Silicon Valley requires technology companies to explain their processes when censoring social media posts and gives Floridians the recourse to seek legal action against platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “social media platforms” bill, Senate Bill 7072, into law at Florida International University in Miami on Monday while surrounded by Florida politicians and activists with ties to Venezuela and Cuba. Presenters at the event lambasted social media companies for censoring posts with conspiracy theories, comparing “Big Tech” to the authoritarian regime of Venezuela.
Former President Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter and Facebook for repeatedly posting false information about election fraud. DeSantis said the bill is for “everyday Floridians,” which now includes Trump, who lives in South Florida.
Facebook’s quasi-independent Oversight Board recently upheld the social media platform’s ruling to ban the former Republican president but said Facebook must specify how long the suspension would last, adding that its “indefinite” ban on the former president was unreasonable.
“When you de-platform the president United States, but you let Ayatollah Khomeini talk about killing, that is wrong,” DeSantis said of the Iranian leader, followed by a round of applause from his supporters.
The law prohibits social media platforms from kicking off a political candidate and authorizes the Department of Legal Affairs to investigate suspected violations under the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Under the law, technology companies will face fines up of $250,000 per day for de-platforming a Florida political candidate. Non-statewide office candidates will carry a $25,000 per day fine.
“Today, these big tech monopolies are exerting way more influence over our society than the monopolies of the earliest 20th century, which led to antitrust and a lot of trust busting,” DeSantis said. “We’re in a situation here where these platforms have become our public square. Floridians and other Americans go on these platforms to be able to share ideas. Heck, you go back to the beginning of these platforms (and) they actually were very liberating because you had corporate media, those legacy outlets that many Americans grew to distrust, and rightfully so, they no longer had the monopoly on information.”
The Florida Senate Democratic Caucus responded to the bill signing Monday, saying it removes the ability for private social media companies to decide their own platform policies.
“If Republicans really cared about protecting our First Amendment rights, they would never have allowed dangerous and anti-American HB 1 to pass through the Florida Legislature and be signed into law. Instead, they’re talking out of both sides of their mouths -- muzzling protesters’ freedom of speech and right to peacefully assemble while also stripping private businesses from determining what is and is not acceptable on their own platforms,” Senate Democrats said in a statement. “This reaction to Donald Trump’s ban from Facebook and Twitter following a dangerous disinformation campaign leading to the insurrection on Jan. 6 is an overreach of government by the very party which claims to fight against such actions.”
Florida’s governor has used the legislation this past year to pass bills targeting protestors and to allow businesses to avoid lawsuits for violating COVID-19 protocols.
DeSantis called Florida the “West Berlin” of the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic with no lockdowns or mask mandates.