Florida on the Front Line in the Battle Against Big Tech Censorship

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US Representative Ron DeSantis (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s news that Facebook and Twitter won’t like, but legislators in Florida are discussing ways to fight back against Big Tech censorship.

One proposal in the Florida Senate would force Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to give users a month’s notice before their accounts are disabled or suspended. The bill was filed after Twitter suspended President Trump’s account.

Another proposal that was to be filed Tuesday would prohibit companies from suspending the account of a political candidate and be subject to a fine of $100,000 for each day the account of a statewide candidate is blocked, or $10,000 a day for other office seekers.

The proposal also would allow consumers to sue if they have been treated unfairly and would authorize the state attorney general to take on the country’s largest tech companies for anti-competitive practices. Social media companies would be required to reveal how they became aware of any content they censor.

“It’s good pushback,” thinks Dan Gainor, vice president of the Media Research Center’s TechWatch. “We’ve always considered the states to be laboratories for democracy, [and] it’s about time Big Tech understand that a large chunk, not just of the United States, but much of the world doesn’t like their attitudes about censorship.”

Gainor says Hungary, for example, just joined Poland in pushing back against the censorship and is also moving toward a regimen that would provide for fines.

Because social media sites are businesses, some people say they have a right to decide what goes on their platform. However, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites are often criticized for allowing people on the left to say things while restricting people on the right.

“It’s not okay,” says Gainor about the double standard. “It’s no longer just about free speech; it’s about our rights online, our rights to work, go to school … embrace politics, interact with our government, shop, sell, even go to church online, and these companies are now censoring this in a way that makes us into not even second-class, but third-class citizens.”

Earlier this year, Amazon suspended Parler from Amazon Web Services for things Amazon deemed violent. In response to that, TechWatch investigated what hateful or violent items remained for sale on Amazon and found 200-plus items, one of them being a “Kill All Republicans” t-shirt.

“They took it down, but only because we flagged it,” says Gainor. “If we can find it on their platforms, why couldn’t they?”

He says it is because “they didn’t care.”

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