Arnold Ahlert / Jan. 18, 2021

Florida Aims to Rein in Big Tech

Other states should follow suit in this critical battle for free speech.

Perhaps the most infuriating thing about the Republican Party is the sad reality that is it a reactive party, not a proactive one. For decades, this spineless collection of go-along-to-get-along milquetoasts has allowed Democrats and the American Left in general to define the nation’s agenda to the point where any dissent from that agenda can make one an “unperson” in all its Orwellian permutations. Yet just as there is an exception to every rule, there are Republicans who refuse to embrace the party’s self-imposed impotency. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and members of the Sunshine State’s Republican-controlled legislature have decided to meet the nation’s foremost censors head-on. In Florida, Big Tech is headed for a well-deserved reckoning.

State Representative Randy Fine is leading the charge. A letter he sent to DeSantis urges the governor to stop doing business with tech giants Amazon, Twitter, Apple, Google, and Facebook and have the state divest all of its investments in those same corporations.

“I am deeply disturbed to see the country’s major technologies use the actions of these few as a pretext to silence tens of millions of good, patriotic Americans, millions of whom live here in Florida,” he wrote. “It is clear that Twitter and Facebook are engaged in one-sided viewpoint discrimination targeting conservatives … and it is not disputed that Amazon, Apple, and Google are actively working to eliminate any alternative outlets where conservatives can speak freely.”

Fine’s timing couldn’t be better. Last Thursday, Project Veritas released a video given to it by a purported Twitter “insider whistleblower.” It shows Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey revealing that his company’s decision to permanently suspend the account of President Trump is just the tip of the deplatforming iceberg.

“We know we are focused on one account right now, but this is going to be much bigger than just one account, and it’s going to go on for much longer than just this day, this week, and the next few weeks, and go on beyond the inauguration,” Dorsey warns.

Florida intends to return the favor and Fine isn’t alone. Representative Anthony Sabatini has introduced House Bill 33, a.k.a. the “Stop Social Media Censorship Act.” It allows residents over the age of 18 to sue tech companies with more than 75 million subscribers if they delete a user’s political or religious speech, or use an algorithm that does the same thing. Each deletion can precipitate a minimum of $75,000 is statutory damages, along with actual damages, possible damages, and other forms of equitable relief.

Republican Senator Danny Burgess has also filed a bill that would require social media companies who deactivate or suspend someone’s account to give notice to account holders within 30 days, explaining why the action was taken.

In his letter to DeSantis, Fine added some much-needed perspective regarding the difference between those who breached the Capitol building and the contemptible effort by Big Tech and its equally despicable allies in the media and the Democrat Party to conflate that relative handful of rioters with 74 million conservative Americans.

“Last week’s attack of the United States Capitol was one of the saddest days of my life,” Fine wrote. “Those terrorists defiled a sacred temple of democracy, and in my mind, there is no penalty too severe for them. I say this because those terrorists do not define me. They do not define you. … And they do not define conservatives.”

He also noted the rank hypocrisy that attends all of it. “These companies allow actual terrorists around the world to use their platforms to target America, Americans, and our allies, without as much as a peep,” he added. “Florida taxpayers should not be forced to do business with entities that censor them.”

Democrats are upset. “These social media companies stepped forward to take responsibility! They didn’t want to be complicit in additional acts of violence and insurrection,” Florida House Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith insisted.

That is, quite simply, a lie. Big Tech, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (owned by Alphabet, which also owns Google), not only allowed their sites to be used to promote and organize seven months of rioting over the summer, but it allowed their platforms to be used by the Capitol riot organizers as well. “In DC, we saw QAnon conspiracists and other militias that would never have grown to this size without being turbo-charged by Facebook and Twitter,” asserted Fadi Quran, campaign director at the human rights group Avaaz.

Nonetheless, only the Parler website was singled out for destruction, even as other social media sites, just as guilty of promoting violence, remain unscathed.

Why? “In part it is because these Silicon Valley giants — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple — donate enormous sums of money to the Democratic Party and their leaders, so of course Democrats will cheer them rather than call for punishment or their removal from the internet,” liberal columnist Glenn Greenwald explains. “Part of it is because Parler is an upstart, a much easier target to try to destroy than Facebook or Google. And in part it is because the Democrats are about to control the Executive Branch and both houses of Congress, leaving Silicon Valley giants eager to please them by silencing their adversaries.”

Those “adversaries” are overwhelmingly conservative and Republican, and Florida Republicans are taking it upon themselves to upend this monopolistic, authoritarian effort to outlaw dissent. And DeSantis is proving to be one of the few bright lights in a party that still makes voting for the lesser of two evils as evil as it’s ever been.

Thus a question arises. Where are the rest of the GOP governors and legislatures? Republicans control the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature in 24 states, compared to only 15 controlled by Democrats, and it’s long past time to stop reassuming the fetal position every time a progressive accuses them of exactly what progressives are doing. Moreover, if they can’t take a stand against the de facto cartel tech companies have become, and begin a full-throated pushback against those who would hide behind private ownership to effectively crush the First Amendment, they are worse than useless.

They are collaborators.

Above all else, the deplatforming of Parler revealed the utter fraudulence of assertions by the likes of Dorsey et al. that one can simply choose another social media platform if they don’t like the terms and conditions of Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, or Google. Amazon, Apple, and Google purposefully destroyed Parler to protect their own interests — period.

It’s time Republicans protected the interests of millions of decent Americans. Florida is leading the way. The 23 other Republican-controlled states, along with any Democrat ones smart enough to understand the long-term ramifications behind a Big Tech power grab of unprecedented proportions, should follow.

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