Florida may soon pass a bill to fine social media companies like Facebook and Twitter for banning political candidates. The bill was introduced by Gov. Ron DeSantis in February. DeSantis is a staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump, but Republicans insist the bill has nothing to do with Trump and his being banned from social media earlier this year after leaving office.
The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill – SB 7072 – by a vote of 77 to 38, after the measure was passed by the State Senate. The bill now goes back to the Senate who must approve changes made by the house. The original Senate version had fines of $10,000 per day that a political candidate remained banned, or $100,000 if the candidate was up for election. The House updated the bill with increased fines of $25,000 and $250,000.
The law doesn’t apply to temporary bans, nor would it apply to specific posts being removed. However, any ban of over 60 days will result in a fine. The social media platform must also make all content posted before the ban available to users.
The bill also contains a very specific exemption, exempting any “information service, system, internet search engine, or access software provider operated by a company that owns and operates” a large entertainment complex or theme park. To clarify, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia said the exemption means that Disney Plus “isn’t caught up in this.” Disney World in Orlando generates a significant amount of tax revenue for the state, which relies heavily on tourism.
The bill also prevents platforms from restricting “journalistic enterprises,” defined as entities that do business in Florida and have over 50,000 paid subscribers or 100,000 monthly active users. The bill also includes provisions on “shadow bans,” which are defined by the bill as “action by a social media platform, through any means, whether the action is determined by a natural person or algorithm, to limit or eliminate the exposure of a user or content or material posted by a user to other users of the social media platform.” Social media platforms can’t shadow ban particular news websites or political candidates and users must be given the option to opt-out of a shadow ban.