New Florida Law Cracks Down on Big Tech, Sec. 230

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Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill, recently passed by the Republican controlled state legislature, that the governor promotes as a way to stop Big Tech from censoring his citizens.

Republicans have argued that Silicon Valley giants have attempted to suppress conservative speech in the guise of moderating their platforms and under the protection of Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which exempts them with civil liability over most of that third party content.

The bill's language makes that clear, saying: "Social media platforms have unfairly censored, shadow banned, deplatformed, and applied post-prioritization algorithms to Floridians." The bill presumes that doing so is not acting in bad faith, which means it is legally actionable, and the governor signaled the state's attorney general would act if that were the case.

Also Read: Rep. Cicciline Says Big Tech Power Will Be Curbed

Florida Senate bill 7072 removes that civil liability protection for Big Tech platforms--like Facebook or Twitter--that violate the law, including allowing for for monetary damages up to $250,000 per day for deplatforming political candidates for statewide office, and $25,000 for non-statewide offices.

De Santis said the bill was a way to require transparency to prevent "Big Tech bureaucrats from “moving the goalposts” to silence viewpoints they don’t like."

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg: Sec. 230 Shield Should Be Tied to Misinformation Mitigation Regime

In addition to monetary penalties, the bill would prevent violators of antitrust law, which the Florida attorney general can pursue under Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, from contracting with any public entity, a "blacklist" DeSantis' office said would create "real consequences" for Big Tech oligopolies.

Legislators in Washington have been wrestling with what to do about Sec. 230 and their issues with how Big Tech is moderating content. Democrats, on the one hand, argue that they are not doing enough to deplatform hateful speakers, while Republicans argue they use that power as cover to deplatform conservative speakers whose politics they disagree with.

Also Read: Dems Urge Facebook to Provide Retroactive Disinformation Corrections

So, that while both sides have issues with the Sec. 230 liability protection, what to do about it remains a big question mark. Florida, by contrast, has come up with a big exclamation mark in the form of this bill.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.