Florida law would fine social media companies that ban ‘conservative ideas’
TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill to punish social media platforms that remove “conservative ideas” from their sites, though it’s unclear whether it would go through the Constitution because it could violate the First Amendment.
The new law will allow the state to fine large social media companies $ 250,000 per day if they delete a political candidate’s account statewide and $ 25,000 per day if they delete the account of a person showing up for a local office. It comes into force on July 1.
“Some of these massive, massive companies in Silicon Valley wield a power over our people that really has no precedent in American history,” DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony at the University. International from Florida to Miami. “One of their main jobs seems to be to suppress ideas.”
But it is questionable whether Florida will be able to apply it. Federal law prevents Internet companies from being prosecuted for job cuts, and federal law prevails over state law in the event of a conflict.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act exempts websites from being prosecuted for removing content deemed “obscene, obscene, lascivious, dirty, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” as long as the companies act in “good faith”.
DeSantis said big tech companies are controlling accounts to remove content that doesn’t match their ideology. Republicans have accused companies like Twitter TWTR,
and Facebook FB,
censorship conservative thinking. DeSantis pointed out in particular that then-President Donald Trump was banned by Twitter while allowing Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to keep tabs.
“When you demolish the President of the United States but let Ayatollah Khamenei talk about killing Jews, that’s wrong,” DeSantis said to thunderous applause.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Facebook declined to comment.
But tech lobby group NetChoice, which includes Twitter and Facebook as members, criticized the new law in a press release.
“By forcing websites to host speeches, this bill brings us closer to a state-run internet where government can pick winners and losers,” NetChoice vice president and lawyer Carl Szabo said . “By cutting companies like Disney and Universal, the Florida legislature has revealed its anti-tech fervor and genuine intent to punish social media for allegations of anti-conservative bias.”
The law will give the Florida Attorney General the power to prosecute businesses under the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Business Practices Act. It will also allow individual Floridians to sue social media companies for up to $ 100,000 if they feel they have been treated unfairly.
The bill targets social media platforms that have more than 100 million monthly users, including online giants like Twitter and Facebook. But lawmakers created an exception for Disney DIS,
and their applications including that the owners of theme parks would not be subject to the law.
The law will require large social media companies to publish standards for how they will decide to “censor, deplete and ban from the shadows.”
Regardless of federal law, Florida’s new law is constitutionally flawed, said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
“Gov. DeSantis says this bill is meant to protect free speech, but an Internet service saying, “ We don’t want to welcome Nazis and people promoting self-harm ” is exercising its own First Amendment rights and it is one of the critical infirmities of this bill, ”said Schruers.
Democrats opposed the bill and defended the right of social media companies, as private entities, to control the flow of information on their platforms. Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson said in a press release that the bill was passed in an attempt to appease Trump.
“These companies take responsibility for what appears on their platforms and have the right to do so,” Gibson said. “Vulgarity and incitement to violence are not their business model and our legislature should appreciate rather than legislate against such a concept.”
While similar bills have been introduced in other states, DeSantis is the first governor to sign one.