Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-controlled state legislature are working together to condemn Big Tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, and Apple for their power abuses including censorship, de-platforming, and election interference.
The state’s Republican leaders plan to propose legislation that, if passed, seeks to protect Floridians’ privacy rights and penalize Silicon Valley giants for taking actions against political opponents and citizens through shadowbanning, algorithm manipulation, and capitalizing on anti-conservative bias.
“Big Tech has long since abdicated the protection of consumers for the pursuit of profit,” DeSantis said in a press conference at the Florida state Capitol on Tuesday. “We can’t allow Floridians’ privacy to be violated, their voices and even their livelihoods diminished, and their elections interfered with.”
This proposal includes imposing a daily $100,000 fine on any tech company that chooses to deplatform a candidate running for office in Florida during an election cycle. It also would ensure that tech oligarchs record their promotions of certain candidates as campaign contributions with the Florida Elections Commission, a punishment DeSantis said fits the crime.
“Any Floridian can deplatform any candidate they choose — you simply unsubscribe — and it’s a right that I believe belongs with the citizen,” he said. “The message is loud and clear: When it comes to elections in Florida, Big Tech should stay out of it.”
In addition to election measures, the legislation aims to mandate transparency for the Big Tech companies, allow Floridians to choose to opt out of content filters, and grant the state’s attorney general to levy legal action against the tech oligarchs if they do not comply.
This pushback from DeSantis and GOP members in the Florida legislature comes after frustrations about widespread biased censorship by Big Tech in the last four years. While DeSantis noted that Twitter and Facebook’s permanent ban on former President Donald Trump was one of the more worrisome cases, he also explained how Silicon Valley giants’ crusade to limit certain information also affected Florida’s attempts to spread word on social media about COVID-19 vaccine availability, including labeling a vaccine update video as “sensitive content.”
The tight grip and power abuse exercised by many of these companies, which maintain web hosting sites, payment processing programs, emailing, and texting, DeSantis said, is not only harmful but showcases their inconsistencies in choosing which information is communicated to the public.
“You can whiz on my leg, but don’t tell me it’s raining. … They are not principled in this,” the governor continued. “They have so much garbage and filth on that platform all the time. They did not censor people when they were using those platforms for the rioting that occurred over the summer, so their excuse doesn’t hold water. … Today, they may come after someone that thinks like me. Tomorrow, they may come after someone that thinks like you.”
These tech overlords, DeSantis said, should not be allowed to “referee” Americans’ ability to share opinions and engage their rights to free speech.
“This is why the Founding Fathers felt the need to do the First Amendment,” DeSantis said, noting that while the founders anticipated that Big Brother could be a threat to liberty, today that threat often comes just as dangerously from Big Tech. “There’s some speech that definitely provides no value and some speech that could even be harmful for society, but who gets to make those determinations? Who gets to draw that line? And when you’re somebody that’s perched in Silicon Valley, and you’re woke, and you believe George Washington and Abraham Lincoln should be removed from the schools, and you have all these different views, you’re not someone that’s going to be a referee just as I may not be someone that would referee speech that you think would be important,” DeSantis said.
“That is the problem with all this,” DeSantis concluded. “It can’t be done in a principled way, and it’s going to be done [in a way] that exhibits the bias of the people in Silicon Valley.”