Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed legislation to impose financial burdens on tech platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that ban candidates for statewide office. Critics of the Florida legislation say the bill is unconstitutional and will not survive legal challenges.
Under the legislation, the Florida Election Commission may fine social media platforms $250,000 each day that a candidate for statewide office is “de-platformed,” or removed from the service. The Republican governor’s office says the bill will let any Floridian sue and win monetary damages for violations, and the state attorney general can also bring new legal action against tech companies.
“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,” Mr. DeSantis said in a statement. “Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior first-hand in Cuba and Venezuela. If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”
Critics of the bill, including liberal Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich, have argued that the legislation will help make online conversations more hateful.
“At a time when many people want to see healthier online communities free of hate and conspiracy theories, this bill ties platforms’ hands in the fight against toxic and incendiary content,” Mr. Kovacevich said in a statement. “It would turn Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube into anything goes sites like 4Chan and Gab. Fortunately, the bill is so clearly unconstitutional that its authors’ efforts to turn the internet into a cesspool of lies and hate should be short-lived.”
Mr. Kovacevich and other critics of the Florida law have noted that the legislation also includes an exemption for a tech company if it “owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex,” in an apparent carve-out for Disney, which operates Disney World in Orlando.