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Fired Florida data official Rebekah Jones yo-yoes on congressional bid

'November 2022 is a long ways away,' Jones says
Posted at 7:04 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 19:04:35-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The last 24 hours have been a wild ride for one of Florida's most controversial figures.

Rebekah Jones was recently banned from Twitter, criticized by the governor’s office and has said she is running for Congress. But it's unclear if she will actually run for Congress.

If you're confused, you're not alone.

Jones is a former Florida Health official, fired last year for alleged insubordination. She has claimed she refused to manipulate COVID-19 data to justify reopening the state.

The former Floridian turned Washington, D.C.-area resident has since gained a large online following. And only hours before she was deplatformed on Twitter, Jones said she had little interest in running for Congress.

"As far as me myself being a political figure, I don't know," Jones said Sunday afternoon.

In that one-on-one chat, she said politicians were favor brokers. It had jaded her appeal of making a run.

"That might, unfortunately, exclude me from politics for life," Jones said. "But, hopefully, there is a place where good people can fit into politics, and maybe one day I can find wherever that, you know, the magic-unicorn place is."

Twitter banned Jones for "platform manipulation and spam" the next day. She said repeated posting of a recent Miami Herald article featuring her was to blame.

"Maybe sharing that article 50 times was a few times too many," Jones said.

Critics, however, including the governor's press secretary, Christina Pushaw, alleged Jones was buying followers. She denies that claim.

"Twitter stated that Jones was suspended for 'platform manipulation,' a clear violation of the platform's terms of service, which prohibit inauthentic activity like buying followers and creating multiple redundant accounts," Pushaw said in a statement.

Later that evening, amid the back and forth, Jones took to Instagram to announce she would be challenging U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in 2022.

The former DOH employee said she was planning to declare the congressional bid next month, but the governor forced her hand.

In a statement, she hoped the new social media law, championed by DeSantis, could now protect her.

"I get to fine Twitter 250k per day until my account is restored -- starting July 1," Jones said.

Attorney Richard Lawson, with Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort, is an expert in government regulation. He has reviewed the new deplatforming law and said politicians need to be "qualified" for the policy to apply.

"There is something of an of an objective standard here," Lawson said. "I can't simply declare myself running for, you know, King-Emperor of the Universe, and then be granted immunity for anything I may ever tweet about."

Attorney Richard Lawson
Attorney Richard Lawson shares his thoughts on Florida's new social media deplatforming law.

Jones would at the very least have to leave the Washington, D.C., area, move back to Florida and file official paperwork.

Her detractors still didn't consider it a serious effort, and the governor’s office suggested Jones was a hypocrite.

"Jones has repeatedly, falsely claimed that Gov. DeSantis is 'silencing' her," Pushaw said. "But now she wants to move back to the free state of Florida and take advantage of the new anti-censorship law that our governor just signed."

Even so, the former Floridian reaffirmed her commitment online Tuesday morning.

"I had hoped someone in the Republican Party would step up and primary him," said Jones in an online video. "If it takes me going home to Florida to run against Matt Gaetz, I'll do it."

Jones then softened in a subsequent statement, hours later. She said if a Republican or Democratic challenger does not appear, she would consider a run.

"Well, November 2022 is a long ways away," Jones said.

Back to square one, it seemed.

Meanwhile, Florida's new social media law, set to take effect July 1, does face legal challenges. That includes an injunction that could put it on hold indefinitely.