TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced support of legislation to protect Floridians' from online social media censorship.
The governor made lengthy comments from Tallahassee Tuesday morning about big technology companies, saying that Floridians deserve to have their online data and their ability to participate in social media online protected.
"It's high time that we step up to the plate to ensure the protection of the people and their rights," DeSantis said, while standing alongside legislative leaders at the Florida Capitol.
He called big technology companies "enforcers of preferred narratives" whose interests are "not in the public interest."
“As these companies have grown and their influence expanded, big tech has come to look more like big brother with each passing day,” DeSantis said.
The legislation proposed by Florida's Republican legislators, aims to target technology giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, and Apple.
If democracy is going to survive, we must stand up to Big Tech oligarchs and demand transparency. Proud to stand with @GovRonDeSantis, @LtGovNunez, @WiltonSimpson, @GovGoneWild, @DannyBurgessFL to roll out our proposal to give users control of a type of modern-day public square. pic.twitter.com/nL4NGCXgw5— Chris Sprowls (@ChrisSprowls) February 2, 2021
The companies have been the subject of criticism after the companies suspended former President Trump from their platforms and removed conservative-favored platform Parler.
The governor said Trump being taken off Twitter was a double standard since other people like the Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran still have an account despite calling for the destruction of Israel.
"They have some much garbage and filth on that platform. ... [Twitter's] excuse doesn't hold water," DeSantis said. "No group of people should exercise such power, especially not tech billionaires in Northern California."
Saying that the legislation will address "censorship" and "deplatforming," DeSantis said he plans to tackle "viewpoint discrimination" against conservative voices and force big tech companies to be transparent about their regulation of content.
"When a social media company applies these standards unequally on users, this is discrimination, pure and simple," DeSantis said.
He said legislators seek to do the following things this term:
- Requiring companies to give "proper notice and disclosure" of changes to their platform's policies
- Require platforms to inform users of any actions taken against them for violating their policies
- Prevent platforms from "rapidly changing" standards and applying them unequally against users
- Give users options to opt-out of algorithms the platforms use to steer and suppress content
- Enable users to bring a "cause of action" against a technology company for violating the requirements of Florida law
- Empower Attorney General to take action against a technology company for violations under Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act
During his speech, the governor also took aim at the election, saying that the companies have been altering algorithms to give a leg-up to the candidates of their choice.
That's why DeSantis said the proposed legislation would also seek to penalize companies who "deplatform" a candidate for elected office in Florida.
"Under our proposal, if a technology company deplatforms a candidate for elected office in Florida during an election, the company will face a daily fine of $100,000 until the candidate's access to the platform is restored," DeSantis said.
As part of that, any company that promotes a candidate for office against another candidate must record the value of that free promotion as a "political campaign contribution."
Companies could also face daily fines for using algorithms to promote or suppress content related to a particular candidate or cause.
"The message is loud and clear," DeSantis said. "When it comes to elections in Florida, big tech should stay out of it."
Gov. DeSantis also called out national news outlets' handling of the Hunter Biden story, asserting that users need to be allowed to circumvent "corporate legacy media outlets" through social media.
The governor pushed back on the notion that the media did not run more Hunter Biden stories because they thought the information came from hacking or was dispersed by foreign governments and "wanted to beat Trump."
He also asserted that the media would have published hacked material about him if it hurt him.
"You can whizz on my leg, but don't tell me it is raining," DeSantis said. "You guys would print it every single day if you could, and big tech would allow it to proliferate every single day."
When asked what he thought about President Trump's comments surrounding the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and whether or not he believed Trump's repeated comments about the election being "stolen," DeSantis pointed to comments made by others in 2016.
The governor asserted that people were allowed to tweet false information about the investigation into collusion between President Trump and Russia.
"To not deplatform some but then to deplatform others when they're making claims, I just don't see how that would be fair," DeSantis said. "But those claims of collusion were amplified by big tech. They were amplified by social media for years. It was the dominant point of discourse in our country and it was without a factual basis."
The full press conference was streamed live on ABC 27's Facebook page. You can watch the full conference below: