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Florida Targets Big Tech, Announces $30M in Local Cyber Grants

Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed a bill to create a “digital bill of rights” aimed at curbing big tech “overreach and surveillance.” Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez announced millions in cybersecurity grants for local governments.

Aerial view of the Florida state Capitol complex.
Florida state Capitol complex.
Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fired another shot at big tech with new legislation he says will help safeguard residents’ digital rights, eliminate unfair censorship and protect minors from online harm.

The proposed legislation, referred to as a “Digital Bill of Rights,” would ban “TikTok and other social media platforms with ties to China from all state government devices” and from Internet services provided at colleges, universities and public schools.

It would also prohibit local government employees from working with tech companies to censor protected speech.

“Our Digital Bill of Rights will ensure Floridians are protected from the overreach and surveillance we have seen from big tech companies,” said DeSantis in a release. “Today’s proposal builds on our efforts to stop big tech censorship and combat the malign influence of China through the removal of nefarious platforms like TikTok from any state-supported activity.”

To further reinforce the state’s ban on specific apps, DeSantis directed the state’s Department of Management Services (DMS) to issue a formal recommendation for state agencies on how to block apps like TikTok, WeChat and QQ from all state devices.

He also charged the department with preventing network connections to servers associated with foreign countries that pose a concern.

In addition to these efforts, DMS is also overseeing the launch of a new local government cybersecurity grant program. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez announced the new $30 million program yesterday, stating, “Florida continues to lead the way with record investments in cybersecurity and modernizations that tackle growing cyber threats head-on.”

“We know that criminals do not care about jurisdictions, and this $30 million grant offers local governments of all sizes the opportunity to protect themselves and stay at the forefront of cyber resilience,” Nuñez added.

The program aims to help local governments improve their cyber capabilities while giving them access to cybersecurity solutions that integrate into the state Cybersecurity Operations Center, a release from DMS said.

Municipal and county governments can apply for the grant through March 31. If chosen, the Florida Digital Service (FLDS) will administer the grants with funding appropriated in the 2022-2023 budget.

“In a world full of threat actors, Florida’s technology infrastructure is only as strong as our weakest link,” said James Grant, state chief information officer, in a release. “Both Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature agree and have prioritized millions of dollars to help safeguard our local communities from cybersecurity threats that can exploit and wreak havoc on critical infrastructure. I strongly encourage Florida’s local governments in need of cybersecurity support to apply, whether they’re improving existing infrastructure or starting from the ground up.”