Florida legislators are pushing to crack down on big tech companies like Twitter and Facebook.
This week the state Senate passed a bill that will fine social media companies if they de-platform statewide candidates up to $100,000 dollars a day.
The issue has been sensitive for GOP lawmakers after former President Donald Trump was removed from Twitter following the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Now, GOP lawmakers in Florida are doing what they can on the state level to, in their opinion, fight back against big tech censorship.
“They were able to take a whole segment of free press away and say, ‘we don’t wanna’ hear those words. We don’t wanna’ hear that speech and we’re going to de-platform you.’ This bill fixes that problem,” said Florida State Senator Kelli Stargel.
Democrats say this is a slippery slope and it involves the government mandating what private companies are required to publish.
“We’re not going to allow social media platforms to block offensive, hate mongering, insurrection supporting messaging,” said Florida State Senator Gary Farmer.
Benjamin Priester is a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law. He said big tech companies will be able to fight this legislation legally because the federal government typically regulates companies that go from state to state.
“There are some federal statutes that govern social media companies, and there’s a doctrine in federal law called preemption that requires states to comply not just with the federal constitution, but federal statutes that govern a relevant area,” said Priester.
Priester points out a recent comment by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that speculating that the high court should revisit first amendment principles on social media, and whether social media should be considered a common carrier, like airlines or shipping companies that are required to service all customers.
“A common carrier like Fedex or UPS, they don’t have discretion under the law to choose to reject certain packages and reject others. If you pay Fedex to ship the box, they have to ship it,” said Priester.
While the Florida Senate has approved the legislation, it’s still awaiting Governor Desantis’ signature.