TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The “Transparency in Technology” draft legislation introduced by Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday may have some enforceability, according to at least one attorney familiar with the legislation.
Richard Lawson is the former “Director of Florida’s Consumer Protection Division, the unit responsible for enforcing Florida’s ‘little FTC Act,’ the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA),” according to his bio.
While the prevailing wisdom has been that companies have a right to control who is or isn’t on their platform, Lawson says the draft bill from DeSantis goes after a specific element of fairness.
“If the [tech company’s] terms of service says we will remove you because of X reason, and you’re removing some people for X reason but you’re letting other people stay up for X reason, then any user — not just the people who got removed, but any user — would have a claim on the basis that they were deceived,” Lawson said.
Lawson noted that without an actual draft copy of the legislation, it’s tough to judge how effective or enforceable the legislation might be.
Some have noted, however, that the legislation may be more about politics than policy.
“Former President Donald Trump’s future is uncertain,” said Dr. Josh Scacco, the professor of political communication at the University of South Florida. “That means you’re going to see other national and state Republicans inching their way into that blank space. That’s what you’re seeing here with Gov. DeSantis.”
The legislation would impose penalties on tech companies that de-platform political candidates, give Floridians more power to control their data privacy, and allow Floridians and the state’s attorney general to bring lawsuits against tech companies that don’t consistently apply their standards.
DeSantis said this legislation was necessary to prevent conservatives from being silenced in online platforms, pointing to multiple social media companies banning Trump and the removal of conservative social media app Parler from Amazon’s web hosting services.
“We have seen the power of their censorship over individuals and organizations, including what I believe is clear viewpoint discrimination,” DeSantis said Tuesday.
But there is little definitive evidence that social media companies are targeting conservatives.
A new study from NYU released on Monday found “no trustworthy large-scale studies have determined that conservative content is being removed for ideological reasons,” according to an excerpt quoted in Variety. “Even anecdotal evidence of supposed bias tends to crumble under close examination.”
CrowdTangle, an app that tracks the popularity of posts across social media apps, also shows that some of Facebook’s most popular posts are from conservative personalities or media outlets.
Florida Representative Blaise Ingoglia, former state GOP chairman and state representative from Hernando County, is leading the legislative effort in this year’s session.