Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation Monday that he claims is designed to stop technology companies from silencing conversations on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. DeSantis signed the Big Tech Bill, as it is called, at an appearance in Miami. He said the legislation makes it illegal for social media companies to ban political candidates from their platforms in the run-up to an election. The state will now fine companies that do so. The new law would also make it easier for Florida’s attorney general and private citizens to sue big tech firms.
DeSantis celebrated the signing by framing the new law as a way to help the average citizen against the undue influence of the big social platforms.
DeSantis has made fighting cancel culture and the so-called liberal media bias — both staples of the present-day GOP party platform — a priority as he approaches a 2022 re-election campaign and eyes a possible 2024 presidential run. The law is also clearly a response to Twitter and Facebook banning former President Trump from their platforms after the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol.
At today’s event, DeSantis accused the “big tech oligarchs” as he called them, of censoring online debates about the pandemic and policies that were put in place by government officials to contain COVID-19.
However, there were major questions about the new law’s constitutionality before the ink had even dried. Critics say the bill infringes on the First Amendment rights of private businesses. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon can decide what can be posted on their sites.
Florida Agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s only elected Democrat, called out DeSantis on Twitter for his apparent hypocrisy regarding social media platforms.
The bill is due to go into effect on July 1.