Florida’s Ron DeSantis tears into Big Tech, moves legislation forward to regulate bias practices


Gray Rohrer

Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE — Citing what he called discrimination against conservatives, Gov. Ron DeSantis and GOP legislative leaders said Tuesday they will back a bill to punish five Big Tech companies – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter – that they believe wield too much power over “the new public square.”

“As these companies have grown and their influence has expanded, Big Tech has come to look more like Big Brother with each passing day,” DeSantis told reporters at the Capitol. “But this is 2021, not 1984, and this is real life, not George Orwell’s fiction. These companies exert monopoly power over a centrally important forum in the public discourse and the access of information that Floridians rely on.”

The move comes after former President Trump, a key ally of the governor, was banned from Twitter and Facebook after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. Twitter said it made the decision “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

DeSantis cited what happened to Trump as one reason for the legislation but didn’t acknowledge Trump‘s role in the riot. DeSantis was asked by a reporter if he agreed with Trump’s claim that the election was stolen from him, but the governor didn’t respond.

Although the bill hasn’t been filed, DeSantis said the measure would require the companies to give users advance notice before removing them from their platform. The companies would be barred from changing the rules and standards of their platforms too often.

If the companies violate the new rules, the legislation would allow users to more easily sue the companies, as well as empower Attorney General Ashley Moody to seek action against them under the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Practices law.

In addition, the bill would target Big Tech’s influence on elections. Companies that remove a candidate for office from their platform would receive $100,000 fines each day until the candidate’s access is restored.

Any promotion of one candidate over another would require a disclosure of that under Florida’s campaign contribution transparency requirements. The use of algorithms to boost or suppress political content would also be banned.

“The message is loud and clear: When it comes to elections in Florida, Big Tech should stay out of it,” DeSantis said.

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

___

(c)2021 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.