Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday created to hold Big Tech companies accountable for censoring Floridians online. Specifically, the law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed, bars the companies from suspending political candidates for more than 14 days as elections loom, the Washington Post reports.
Florida's law says that social media companies may not "permanently delete or ban" a candidate for office.
The new law allows Floridians who are deplatformed by tech companies to sue them.
"Requiring Big Tech to define the behaviors that will lead to someone being de-platformed is a significant victory for free speech and I am grateful for our Governor's leadership on this issue", said Senator Ray Rodrigues.
"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", said DeSantis. Google and Facebook did not immediately offer comments on the signing of the bill.
Last year, Twitter defended its decision, categorizing the Iranian leader's instigative tweets as "commentary on political issues of the day" but failing to extend the same courtesy to the then-President of the United States.
But the tech lobbying group NetChoice, which includes Twitter and Facebook as members, criticized the new law in a news release. It will also allow individual Floridians to sue social media companies for up to $100,000 if they feel they've been treated unfairly. The First Amendment prohibits the government from compelling or controlling speech on private websites, he added. But lawmakers carved out an exception for Disney and Comcast and their apps by including that theme park owners wouldn't be subject to the law. According to DeSantis, the law will also require social media companies to be transparent about their content moderation practices and give users proper notice of changes to those policies. No more secret algorithms, inconsistent standards, shadow banning, and de-platforming.
The law says the platforms can not take down or otherwise prioritize content from a "journalistic enterprise" that reaches a certain size.
Regardless of the federal law, the new Florida law is constitutionally flawed, said Computer and Communications Industry Assn. "Vulgarity and inciting violence are not their business model and our legislature should appreciate rather than legislate against such a concept".
At a press conference on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the state "America's West Berlin" while discussing the state's lax response to the coronavirus pandemic.