Florida congressman developing amendments to protect reputations on social media

Story of UCF student’s “tarnished” reputation falsely linked to racial slurs prompts action

ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orlando-area congressman is taking action after a student at the University of Central Florida told News 6 his reputation was ruined after racial slurs linked to his name went viral, reaching “about 1 million people.”

Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, told News 6 he is working with his legislative team to reform Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act to protect a person’s reputation on all social media platforms.

The action comes after Soto reviewed News 6′s reporting of UCF student “Alex” Bugay’s fight to clear his reputation after he was falsely linked to racial slurs that went viral reaching “about 1 million people.”

“It seemed to take months for him to get any semblance of normalcy and that’s not right,” Soto said.

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Bugay, a 5-year student at the University of Central Florida told News 6 his reputation was ruined after the racially-charged posts on X (formerly Twitter) were directed at Georgia State Rep. Mesha Mainor after she announced she was joining the Republican Party this past July.

“I just didn’t know how to react and I was scared,” Bugay told News 6. “I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn from an incident like this.”

The posts, too vulgar for print, included Bugay’s name, email, and phone number.

Mainor reposted the messages and that triggered a wave of criticism against Bugay on C.

Mainor then investigated the posts and determined Bugay had nothing to do with it.

Mainor posted in part: “I apologize to Alex for the harm this may have caused him.”

Bugay’s father, Florida attorney Scott Bugay, told News 6 they think existing federal law should be amended to include protection of a person’s reputation.

“As parents, it’s devastating for us to watch our son’s reputation be tarnished,” he said. “The (federal) statute should make absolutely clear reputation is a form of identity theft.”

The current federal Law, Section 230, does not address the protection of a person’s reputation on social media, or the internet.

Soto said it will be a difficult challenge that could take months, even years to complete.

“So we’ll be working on many different ways to help try to pass this into law,” Soto told News 6. “Whether it’s amendments or a bill, it’s an area of growing concern for a lot of us.”

If you have an issue involving identity theft email mholfeld@wkmg.com or makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or text the words “make ends meet” along with the issue and your contact information to 407-676-7428.

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.