Legislation targeting big tech clears Florida Senate

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Senate on Monday passed legislation requiring social media companies to publish standards for use and abide by them when it comes to de-platforming users.

The legislation carries heavy fines and the threat of lawsuits for would-be violators.

Specifically, big tech platforms face fines up to $100,000 a day if they de-platform a statewide candidate for public office and $10,000 a day for other political candidates.

In 2018, Matt Caldwell, the losing candidate for Florida Agriculture Commissioner was de-platformed for his pro-National Rifle Association ad, which YouTube removed for almost a day.

“They were able to take a whole segment of free press away, saying: we don’t want to hear those words. we don’t want to hear that speech and we’re going to de-platform you,” State Sen. Kelli Stargel said. “This bill fixes that.”

The Senate version of the bill allows either the state or individuals to sue tech companies. Senate Democrats and St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes were among those who voted against the measure

“This is a bill we could see in countries we don’t want to talk about,” State Sen. Brandes said. “We can’t have 50 different states with 50 different laws on what you can post. It isn’t going to work.”

Ultimately, the bill’s sponsor said the legislation is about one thing.

“The bill requires the companies to define the behavior that will lead to you being de-platformed. And that’s it,” State Sen. Ray Rodrigues said of the legislation he’s backing.

Under the legislation, companies could only change their terms of service every 30 days.

The House isn’t likely to accept the bill passed by the Senate as-is, but it’s unclear what the House would change.

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the House sponsor, is playing his cards close to the vest.

“You know, we may make some edits to it and send it back to the Senate. I think that’s the plan right now,” he said.

There’s little doubt the legislation will pass in some form, but the question is how strong will it be as lawmakers enter the final week of the session.