Because the federal government appears unwilling to do anything about the ever-growing problem of big tech censorship, it is left to the states to fight this long-overdue battle.
Fortunately, the Sunshine State is stepping up to the plate, becoming the first state in the country to put a big tech censorship bill on the governor’s desk. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a strong proponent of the bill, is expected to sign it into law soon.
So, how would the Florida bill (SB 7072) actually rein in big tech censorship?
First and foremost, SB 7072 would make it “a violation for social media deplatforming of a political candidate and requires a social medial platform to meet certain requirements when they restrict speech by users.”
More specifically, “The bill prohibits social media platforms from deplatforming candidates for political office and allows the Florida Elections Commission to fine a social media platform $100,000 per day for deplatforming statewide candidates and $10,000 per day for deplatforming all other candidates.”
Second, the bill would enact “restrictions for contracting with public entities for certain social media platforms who have violated antitrust laws and who have been placed on the Antitrust Violator Vendor List.”
In other words, the Florida government will not do business with big tech companies that flagrantly flaunt long-established antitrust statutes.
Third, the bill would protect the free speech rights of all Floridians by requiring social media platforms to “publish the standards, including detailed definitions, it uses or has used for determining how to censor, deplatform, and shadow ban” and “apply censorship, deplatforming, and shadow banning standards in a consistent manner among users on the platform.”
As we have seen in recent history, big tech has a proclivity for banning users based on entirely arbitrary standards that they do not apply consistently and seem to make up as they go along. Protecting freedom of speech consistently, which SB7072 seeks to do, is imperative.
Fourth, the bill would require said platforms to “inform each user about any changes to its user rules, terms, and agreements before implementing the changes and may not make changes more than once every 30 days.” This should be common practice across the board.
Fifth, SB 7072 would establish “that a social media platform that fails to comply with these requirements may be found in violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by the Department of Legal Affairs.”
This would apply accountability to any big tech company that defies this state law.
Sixth, and perhaps most significantly, the bill would establish that “a user may bring a private cause of action against a social media platform for failing to apply consistently certain standards and for censoring or deplatforming without proper notice.”
This would allow Floridians to sue big tech platforms if they are arbitrarily deplatformed. This is also known as due process and is protected under the Fifth Amendment.
Fortunately, the Florida bill could be a seminal moment in Americans’ quest to combat big tech censorship.
For far too long, big tech overlords have hidden behind the liability shield granted to them under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
Although Section 230 remains the law of the land at the national level, Florida is wholly within its right to ensure that big tech plays by the rules it sets in the Sunshine State.
After all, that is federalism.
In 1932, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”
When it comes to combating big tech censorship, Florida lawmakers have proven to be courageous. They very well could be prescient, too.
If this is the case, and time will tell, more states should follow Florida’s lead on this issue.
Chris Talgo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at The Heartland Institute.