Social media companies would be subject to daily fines under a new law proposed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis introduced a proposal to punish social media companies that suspend state politicians’ accounts. In a press conference at the Florida Capitol on Tuesday, he referred to Big Tech as a “monopoly” that controls an “unimaginable” flow of information and is inherently “discriminatory” against conservative viewpoints.
“The message is loud and clear,” DeSantis said. “When it comes to elections in Florida, Big Tech should stay out of it.”
DeSantis, who campaigned for Trump in the 2020 presidential election, said that tech companies’ “unequal” application of their standards to remove users is a form of “discrimination” and political bias.
In direct response to social media companies’ actions, DeSantis’ Transparency in Technology Act will include specific provisions to prevent “political manipulation” and reinstate a sense of “choice” among social media users.
The law will be spearheaded by the state’s House Commerce Committee and would subject technology companies to $100,000 daily fines until a candidate’s access to a platform is restored.
“Big Tech shouldn’t be in the business of censoring or de-platforming candidates, but rather, voters should be able to make that choice independently,” DeSantis said.
Technology companies would also need to report any promotion of one candidate over another as a political campaign contribution subject to regulation by the Florida Elections Commission.
“Big Tech has a duty to allow different views on their public platforms. No one should be excluded, but let’s be clear, they are targeting conservatives and engaging in political censorship,” said Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson on Tuesday.
The technology community reacted with concern to DeSantis’ proposal.
“These proposals would stifle online platforms’ ability to update community rules to combat crimes, violence, and hate speech,” James Hines, southern regional director of state government affairs for the Internet Association wrote in an email to Newsweek.
Hines added that the law could be discouraging for business development in Florida: “At a time when local officials across the state are trying to attract new jobs and investment for the state’s emerging tech and startup hubs, creating a private right of action may be good for trial lawyers, but it will cause job creators to think twice about the long-term business climate of the sunshine state.”
Under the law’s provisions, technology companies must allow Floridian users to opt out of algorithms that allegedly suppress or influence the content they see. Users must be given a 30-day notice when their account has been blocked or suspended, as well as an explanation for their removal. The law will also allow individuals and the state attorney general to file suits against technology companies for violating the law’s tenets.
“I believe that where the governor and the Republican leadership is today is more a knee-jerk reaction and for politicking and not real policy,” State Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried said at a press conference on Tuesday at the state Capitol. “This is definitely something that needs to go on the federal side.”
Meanwhile, the state also relies investments in technology companies to pay retired Floridians through the Florida Retirement System. Returns on $8 billion worth investments in Twitter, Apple, Facebook and Google exceeded 30 percent last year, according to the State Board of Administration. The new law would compel the state to sell these stocks, potentially depriving retirees of pension funds.
According to the Associated Press, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said on a call last week the company was attempting to “turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations and communities.… People don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.”
Facebook declined to comment to Newsweek‘s request for a statement. Newsweek has reached out to DeSantis and Twitter for comment.