Florida To Prevent Tech Firms ‘Deplatforming’ Political Figures

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed a controversial state bill that targets social networking firms, and how they moderate online content.

The Florida bill is the first US state to enact such legislation, effectively requires social networking firms to only suspend accounts for 14 days. Tech firms can be fined as much as $250,000 (£176,000) per day for violations.

It comes after Twitter, Facebook and YouTube banned former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol building on Wednesday 6 January, which resulted in the deaths of five people (including one police officer who was beaten to death).

Trump ban

In the immediate aftermath, Facebook banned Trump for 24 hours, but as the full scale of the attempted insurrection became clear, it then suspended his accounts indefinitely.

YouTube and Twitter also initially banned Trump for a limited period of time, but Twitter then opted to permanently ban Trump from its platform.

YouTube also suspended Trump’s account indefinitely.

Earlier this month, Facebook’s Oversight Board ruled that Mark Zuckerberg’s firm can keep suspending Donald Trump on Facebook and Instagram, reaffirming the platform’s decision to implement an ‘indefinite’ ban of the former US President.

However, the board said Facebook must review the decision within six months, and it did object to the social network making the suspension indefinite.

But Trump did not taken kindly to the decision, and lashed out at tech firms, calling the bans a “total disgrace and an embarrassment to our country”.

Trump now now lives in the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Florida law

Republican Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, on Monday publicly blamed a “council of censors” in Silicon Valley for shutting down debate over Covid-19 lockdowns and the origins of the coronavirus.

“I would say those lockdowns have ruined millions of people’s lives all around this country,” DeSantis was quoted as saying by CNN. “Wouldn’t it have been good to have a full debate on that in our public square? But that was not what Silicon Valley wanted to do.”

The bill DeSantis signed essentially prohibits tech platforms from suspending or banning political candidates in the state, with possible fines of $250,000 per day if the de-platformed candidate is seeking statewide office and $25,000 per day if the candidate is running for a non-statewide office.

The legislation also gives Florida residents the ability to sue tech companies for de-platforming.

Similar bills have also been considered in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah, CNN reported.

Florida’s bill comes as US lawmakers propose significant changes to the Section 230 protection of the Communications Act of 1934 that protects social networking firms from being sued over the content posted by users.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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