Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the consequences that big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google will face if they violate the privacy of Floridians and interfere with citizens’ access to candidates during an election.
The Republican governor criticized the manipulation of news and censorship of certain individuals while detailing the new legislation’s harsh penalties during a press conference from the Florida Capitol on Tuesday.
“Floridians should have the privacy of their data and personal information protected, their ability to access and participate in online platforms protected, and their ability to participate in elections free from interference from big tech protected,” said DeSantis.
He said that over the years, “these platforms have changed from neutral platforms that provided Americans with the freedom to speak to enforcers of preferred narratives. Consequently, these platforms have played an increasingly decisive role in elections and have negatively impacted Americans who dissent from orthodoxies favored by the Big Tech cartel.”
DeSantis alluded to the tech giants “moderating” news that was unfavorable to President Joe Biden, banning high-profile conservatives, including President Donald Trump, from Twitter and Facebook, and their removal of the Parler social media platform from Amazon’s servers.
“When 2.8 million Americans chose to download the application Parler and share information with friends, family, and colleagues, what was the result of that? Canceled by Amazon, Google, and Apple,” said DeSantis.
“Used to be that consumers were trusted to make their own decisions about what information to consume, about which leaders to ‘follow,’ about what news to watch,” he said. “Now those decisions are increasingly made by nameless, faceless boards of sensors.”
DeSantis called for open, robust debate on issues that affect Americans rather than the outright censorship that big tech companies are currently engaging in. The governor said that companies are discriminating against citizens when they change their rules as it suits them, without warning or consistency.
“What began as a group of upstart technology companies from the west coast, has since transformed into an industry of monopoly communications platforms that monitor, influence, and control the flow of information in our country and among our citizens,” DeSantis said from the Cabinet Meeting Room.
The governor said ‘Big Tech’ is becoming more like ‘Big Brother’ with “each passing day.”
Under the new measure from the Florida legislature, the technology companies that de-platform a candidate during an election will face a daily fine of $100,000 until the candidate’s access to the platform is restored.
If a technology company promotes a candidate for office against another, the value of that free promotion must be recorded as a political campaign contribution enforced by the Florida Elections Commission.
The bill will also empower the Florida Attorney General to bring action against big tech companies under Florida’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act if they violate the new policies laid out in the bill.
Tech companies would have to give users advance notice of a rule change and before shutting down an account and apply the rule consistently.
“And lastly, [if] a technology company uses their content and user-related algorithms to suppress or prioritize the access of any content related to a political candidate or cause on the ballot, that company will also face daily fines,” DeSantis added.
Florida’s House Speaker Chris Sprowls said, “With our proposal, we are going to bring into the sunshine what I call the five families of darkness: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, and Apple,” adding, “These actors won’t go unchecked here in Florida anymore.”
“They have access to private information and the ability to exercise control over individuals’ free speech,” Sprowls said. “We’re pushing the barriers to finally call out their convoluted and inconsistent standards for censoring, banning, and de-platforming.”
Twitter, Facebook, and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.