TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News/WFLA) — Some Florida Republicans are calling for action against social media “censorship” after President Donald Trump was removed from several platforms last week.
Multiple bills have been filed in Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session to prevent de-platforming on the basis of political speech.
After an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter banned President Trump from their platforms. Facebook said it was banning Trump indefinitely, or at least through the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Twitter later followed suit and permanently suspended the @realDonaldTrump account due to “the risk of further incitement of violence.” Twitter also took action against the official @POTUS account.
Those moves by social media companies were applauded by Florida Democrats.
“We have never seen a president that would conduct himself in such a despicable way. So I think that his removal was justified,” State Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) said.
Google, Apple and Amazon also took action to de-platform the conservative-leaning social media app Parler.
Florida Republicans like State Sen. Ray Rodrigues consider the actions an assault on free speech.
“It seems like big tech is using their resources to push their political agenda and to silence those who do not agree with them,” Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers) said.
Legislation filed in the Florida Senate would require social media companies to inform users why they were banned within 30 days. SB 520 – filed Monday by Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) – would take effect July 1, 2021 if passed.
A bill in the House goes much further. HB 33 would allow users to sue if they’re banned for political or religious speech for a minimum of $75,000 in damages. The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont).
“All we’re doing here is saying, ‘hey, there’s a new business regulation.’ If you’re ‘X’ amount of size, you cannot discriminate based on political viewpoint,” Sabatini said.
The House bill does allow social media companies to ban users for calls to violence, posting pornography, impersonation or if a court orders the account to be removed.
“The companies could still moderate but they can’t use the moderation exception to Section 230 to basically publish what it is they like and don’t like,” Sabatini explained.
While the Senate version currently doesn’t go as far as the House bill, the sponsor pledged to make it stronger as it moves through the Legislature.
If the legislation ultimately passes, it could potentially be used by President Trump – who is a Florida resident – to seek retribution for his bans from social media platforms.
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