Florida Big Tech Censorship Bill Takes Another Step Forward

A bill aimed at punishing social media platforms for "de-platforming" or censoring state lawmakers and candidates for office is making its way through the House of Representatives after clearing its second committee stop.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Shutterstock/Hunter Crenian
Do social media and big tech companies have too much power when it comes to blocking political candidates from using their platforms? According to a bill backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the answer to that question is "yes," a position that has prompted no small amount of debate among state lawmakers. 

The bill, titled House Bill 7013, looks to take action against “social media platforms for unlawful practices related to censoring or de-platforming,” statewide candidates, specifically impacting big tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Amazon from removing candidates from their platforms.  
 
If passed, the bill would impose a daily $100,000 fine on social media platforms for de-platforming statewide candidates and a daily $10,000 fine for all other Florida candidates.
 
The bill also attempts to provide equal access for news organizations and political candidates to reach users free from manipulation by algorithms and give users the power to opt out of algorithms.
 
“Over the years, these platforms have changed from neutral platforms that provide Americans with the freedom to speak to enforcers of preferred narratives,” Gov. DeSantis said during a news conference
 
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a supporter of the legislation, also spoke out about the bill during the news conference, saying how it would let “Florida take back the virtual public square as a place where information and ideas can flow freely.” 
 
However, not all House members agree. 
 
“We’re going to pass something that we have very strong reason to think is unconstitutional,” Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. “Ultimately, we’re probably going to lose, and the people who are going to pay are really not us sitting at these tables; it’s going to be the taxpayers.”
 
The main concern if the bill is passed is that it could infringe on companies’ right to free speech by regulating the content they publish, possibly violating the First Amendment. 
 
However, the bill’s primary sponsor, Commerce Committee Chair Blaise Ingoglia, says that the bill would do more good than harm.
 
“Big Tech has a death grip on public discourse, and the Florida House is calling for transparency and accountability once and for all,” Ingoglia said in a release. “Whatever we see and what we engage with on social media is whatever the big tech giant deems we should be fed. Our proposal will give users the power to understand how they are being manipulated.” 
 
The bill, which the House Appropriations Committee cleared by a 19-8 vote, is now being reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee.
 
 

Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University, and more than five years of experience in the print and digital news industry.