June 30, 2022

Florida wants to ban social media sites from misrepresenting political candidates

Florida Republicans have passed legislation to punish social media companies for exercising their rights as private companies to ban and remove voices that violate their usage guidelines.

Governor Ron DeSantis, a staunch ally of Donald Trump – who has been banned by Twitter and several other social media platforms in the wake of the Capitol uprising – has been a key supporter of the bill and will sign it. without a doubt.

The bill passed Florida House 77-38 and its Senate 23-17.

However, the bill will likely be challenged in court by tech industry trading groups who claim the bill violates the First Amendment.

Republican lawmakers – who often complain about alleged attacks on free speech and claim to be free market champions and enemies of the government’s growing intrusion into the affairs of private entities – have long complained that the sites media are silencing conservative voices and supporting expanding government intrusion into the affairs of private companies by passing laws to punish them.

The claims are exaggerated at best. YouTube has long been criticized for being a haven for far-right content and conspiracy theorists, with algorithms that once pushed users towards increasingly extremist content. Hundreds of Republican lawmakers and conservative organizations have active Twitter accounts, and Facebook has been used as an organizing and recruiting tool for many far-right groups and movements, including early anti-mask protests. of the pandemic and the “Stop the Voler” movement that preceded the Capitol uprising.

Each of these social media companies took steps to try to quell extremist voices and calls for violence in the years following the 2016 election. These efforts are at the heart of the complaints raised by Republicans.

Florida’s bill would ban social media from intentionally misrepresenting political candidates, thereby banning companies from banning anyone running for elected office. The plan would still allow sites to issue 14-day bans and remove individual posts that violate their terms of service.

“The purpose of this bill is to send a strong message to Silicon Valley that they are not the absolute arbiter of the truth,” said Republican state representative John Snyder. told NBC News. “What this bill does is send a strong message that the Constitution does not have an asterisk that says only a certain word is free and protected.”

State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat, said if Republicans wanted to use social media platforms for political gain, then they should follow the rules rather than trying to prevent companies from enforcing their guidelines.

“There is already a solution to distort candidates on social media: stop the traffic in conspiracy theories. This is the solution. Stop spreading disinformation if you are a candidate or incumbent. Stop retweeting QAnon. Stop lying on social media, ”said Mr. Smith mentioned, according to NBC News.

He said the Republicans’ complaints about free speech were spurious, arguing their real criticism was that Mr. Trump had been banned.

“Stop inciting insurgency against our republic. We hear this bill because Twitter ultimately misrepresented former President Trump after five people were killed in an insurgency he instigated on the US Capitol. United, ”he said.

A trade organization representing internet companies, NetChoice, has testified against the bill, arguing that private entities should have the freedom to decide how best to serve their users – a position Republicans have long used to fight against them. regulatory efforts.

“The First Amendment makes it clear that the government cannot regulate the speech of individuals or businesses. This includes government action that compels talk by forcing a private social media platform to deliver content that goes against its policies or preferences, ”Group Chairman Steve said. DelBianco, said during his testimony.