Theme park loophole creates way to skirt social media censorship bill

Under legislation, theme park owners would be exempt from new rules governing social media

(News Service of Florida)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Disney World could face new competition if social media companies take advantage of a loophole included in legislation aimed at cracking down on social media censorship, which awaits the governor’s signature.

The legislation, which has the backing of State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, creates new rules that companies must follow if they take steps to either censor, de-platform or shadow-ban Floridians and candidates seeking public office.

“I think this bill will ensure that the virtual square is open to all of Florida’s candidates and all Florida citizens,” he said.

Under the bill, social media companies would face fines up to $250,000 a day for censoring statewide political candidates. Users could also sue these companies for up to $100,000 if they’re removed from a social platform without cause.

But a last-minute amendment added in the final days of session creates a loophole for companies that own theme parks.

When asked if Facebook would be exempt from the legislation’s requirements if the social media giant purchased a theme park, State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, offered this response to a reporter.

“If they bought a theme park and named it Zucker Land and they met the definition of a theme park under Florida statute, then the answer to that would be yes,” Ingoglia said.

Rodrigues, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said the intent behind the amendment was to prevent Disney and Universal from getting swept up in the legislation due to smartphone apps they run for their theme park attendees.

But the state senator does not believe companies will be angling to buy theme parks instead of following the new rules.

“Well, I think the easier path for them would be to get their act together on censorship and start treating Floridians equally,” Rodrigues said.

Despite the carveout, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the good still outweighs the bad in the bill. DeSantis is likely to sign the bill, which he said will send a message to big tech companies, which have come under fire for content removal.

“We’re fighting against oligarchs in Silicon Valley suppressing speech and censoring views that they disagree with,” he said.

Rodrigues said if social media platforms purchase theme parks to skirt the law, the legislation would be tweaked next year.