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May 26, 2021

DeSantis Takes on Big Tech

The Florida governor signs a new law aimed at stopping social media censorship.

Florida has become the latest state to protect its residents from Big Tech’s abusive “power grab on speech, thought and content,” as Governor Ron DeSantis signed a measure he termed the Big Tech Bill. “This session, we took action to ensure that ‘We the People’ — real Floridians across the Sunshine State — are guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites,” DeSantis stated, adding, “If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”

The bill, SB 7072, will allow Florida residents to sue Big Tech companies that fail to follow or enforce their content rules with transparency. According to a press release from the governor’s office, “This reform safeguards the rights of every Floridian by requiring social media companies to be transparent about the content moderation practices and give users proper notice of changes to those policies, which prevents Big Tech bureaucrats from ‘moving the goalposts’ to silence viewpoints they don’t like.” It creates a provision for the state’s attorney general to take action against a social media company should it violate this law.

Furthermore, the legislation prohibits social media companies from deplatforming political candidates, with penalties of $250,000 per day on companies should they deplatform state-wide candidates and $25,000 per day over deplatformed national candidates.

It’s not deplatforming that poses the greatest threat to free speech, however, but shadow banning — or algorithmic suppression of reach. Conservatives still may technically “have a platform” because their social media accounts are active, but the number of people who see their content is greatly limited. Remember the suppression of the Hunter Biden bombshell right before the election? Thus, the law also prohibits “any action to censor, deplatform, or shadow ban a journalistic enterprise based on the content of its publication or broadcast.”

DeSantis made it clear that he sees social media companies as the modern equivalent of the “public square,” and as such they must be held to account for infringing on Americans’ right of free speech.

“We are now, though, in a situation where we have things that were probably unforeseen by the Founding Fathers,” the governor contended. “Whereas they established a First Amendment to protect people’s freedom of speech, religion, and association from government overreach, we now have a situation in which some of these massive, massive companies in Silicon Valley are exerting a power over our population that really has no precedent in American history.” Moreover, he continued, “These big tech monopolies are exerting way more influence over our society than the monopolies of the early 20th century, which led to antitrust and a lot of trust-busting. So we’re in a situation here where these platforms have become our public square.”

DeSantis is right about that, and he’s leading the way in an unfortunately necessary battle.

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