Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Gonna Make Facebook, Twitter, MySpace PAY!
Florida has become the first state to kick the First Amendment in the teeth and regulate speech on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and any other social media company that has banned Donald Trump from its platform.
The law, which Governor Ron DeSantis signed Monday, will impose fines on social media companies that permanently bar political candidates in the state, even if they violate clearly stated, if not always read, terms of service. Banning candidates for statewide office will cost you $250,000 per day but booting candidates for local office will only result in fines of $25,000 per day.
There are also provisions for people who aren't actively running for office, which is likely intended to benefit the Mar-a-Lago resident.
A late amendment to the bill exempts companies from the law if they "own a theme park or an entertainment venue larger than 25 acres," like, for instance, Disney World, which is in Orlando. It's a convenient exemption for Disney that has no basis in any actual First Amendment principle.
DeSantis signed the bill at an event at Florida International University in Miami, proudly standing behind a lectern that stated “Stop Big Tech Censorship" (it's not censorship). Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe, who makes shit up for a living, was close at hand, which lets you know how seriously to take all this. Twitter banned O'Keefe earlier this year for blatant violations of its policies against platform manipulation and spam. O'Keefe, in turn, sued Twitter for defamation as if Twitter's the reason he looks that way.
"Today, Floridians are being guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley power grab on speech, thought, and content," DeSantis said in a tweet. "We the people are standing up to tech totalitarianism with the signing of Florida's Big Tech Bill."
DeSantis further warned that "If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable." Of course, consistency is the hobgoblin of conservatives' tiny minds. Joe Biden didn't get kicked off Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and what remains of Friendster because he doesn't post lies about the election or promote violence against his political opponents. That's Trump's bag.
However, the same whiny babies who freak out over racial “equity" now demand an “equality of outcome" rather than opportunity for their online experience. During a debate over this stupid bill, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia claimed:
I have had numerous constituents come to me saying that they were banned or de-platformed on social media sites.
That probably happened, and Rep. Ingoglia's constituents were probably banned or de-platformed because they couldn't follow simple rules. When it's a Black driver with a broken tail light, all bets are off and they've brought upon themselves the full force of state-approved violence, but God forbid a white person is denied the right to spread QAnon cult garbage on Facebook.
Facebook and Twitter were specifically half-assed about moderating content or holding President Klan Robe accountable for his repeated terms of service violations. They only got around to banning him from their platforms when his lies and violent rhetoric incited an attack on Congress. Trump has also pushed hard for the repeal of the Communications Decency Act's Section 230, which provides immunity from liability for user-generated content on social media platforms. He's a very stupid man, so he doesn't understand how repealing Section 230 would make it even less likely that tech firms would permit him to use their platforms to spread his particular brand of bullshit.
This is not how the First Amendment works. The government isn't allowed to censor you — it will anyway! — but private businesses can control the content on their platforms. Conservatives have argued that social media is a public utility (as if they suddenly believe in public services, like schools). That's not in any way true. Conservatives are free to set up competitors to Facebook and Twitter but they're too lazy and dumb to pull it off, so they want access to the intellectual property of others. This is the bad, naughty “socialism" conservatives claim to hate when it involves keeping cancer patients alive.
Meanwhile, Florida and other Republican-dominated legislatures in Oklahoma and Iowa have recently passed laws that limit (Black people's) right to protest and provides immunity to drivers who run over protesters in public streets. (Nothing quite says “pro-life" like killing someone because it's too inconvenient to drive around the block.) These idiots will soon take a remedial, GED course in the First Amendment once these measures are inevitably challenged in court.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."