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Governor, Legislature Take Aim At Social Media

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When the 2021 legislative session is gaveled in, a House committee will take up a proposal that targets large social media companies that block users from their platforms.

It’s a politically charged issue that has become a rallying cry for Governor Ron DeSantis and many other Republicans. The bill is scheduled to go before the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday. It stems in part from decisions by Twitter and Facebook to block former President Donald Trump from their platforms in January, after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to prevent certification of President-elect  Joe Biden’s election victory.

DeSantis and Republican legislative leaders last month announced they would set new requirements for social-media companies, including clearing the way for lawsuits and financial penalties against platforms that violate the requirements.

“We’ll go a long way to strengthening safeguards in Florida against actions taken by big tech companies to censor users and interfere in our elections,” said DeSantis.

But House Minority Co-leader Evan Jenne (Jenny) blasted Republicans for focusing on the issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would suggest to them to get their eye back on the ball and quit with the politics,” Jenne said. “They had a good campaign cycle. Worry about the next one, but let’s legislate and actually govern while we are here, and not placate campaign consultants who think it is a good idea to hit on certain topics and legislation.”

Among other things, the bill would bar social-media companies from blocking political candidates from their platforms. The Florida Elections Commission would have the power to fine the platforms 100 thousand dollar per day for blocking statewide candidates, and 10 thousand dollars a day for other candidates.

The measure is targeted at large platforms, as it would apply to social media companies that have at least $100 million in annual gross revenues or at least 100 million monthly “individual platform participants” globally.