Florida Bans FB, Twitter From Banning Politicians

John Lister's picture

Florida has banned tech sites from banning politicians from posting. The law takes effect on July 1st, 2021, but seems destined for the Supreme Court.

The law was first proposed in February, shortly after Facebook and Twitter banned then-President Donald Trump. It's now passed the legislature and has been signed into law by the state's governor.

Under the law, sites can still remove specific posts. They can also suspend a user for up to 14 days for violating its policies.

No Permanent Bans

However, the law bans longer suspensions or permanent bans for anyone known to be a candidate for political office, even if they violate the site's policies. The protection runs from the candidate entering the race to the point at which they withdraw or the day of the election, whichever comes first.

Banning such a candidate could mean a maximum penalty of up to $250,000 if they are running for a statewide office such as governor or Senator and $25,000 for local races.

Rather bizarrely, the law contains an exemption for any company "that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex" in Florida. That appears to be a measure specifically put in place to cover Disney, even though it doesn't currently run a social media platform. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

First Amendment In Question

The backers of the law say it is necessary to avoid a site "deplatforming" a candidate and thus giving their opponents an electoral affair. Political supporters say big tech firms can abuse their power to allow or ban users as a way to push the political views of the company's owners.

Critics say the law violates the First Amendment in a couple of ways. Firstly, it restricts the ability of businesses to control what does and doesn't appear on their websites, restricting their free speech.

Secondly, it contradicts an existing exemption that says websites have the the right to moderate content posted by users without breaching the First Amendment rights of those users. (Source: theverge.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Is this law reasonable? Should websites with "user content" have complete control over who can and can't post on their? Do big tech companies have too much control over how political candidates communicate with the public?

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davolente_10330's picture

As I see it, FB and Twitter are private companies and, as such, are free to deal (or not) with whoever they please. If barring means that Trumpettes, Trump-like misinformation and downright lies by politicians get eliminated, so be it. Nothing to do with limiting free speech or the like. This law seems ludicrous to me and is nothing more than grand-standing.

kitekrazy's picture

Just as long as they aren't receiving government funds they can do whatever they want. The reality is journalism is dead and "social" media is not a reliable platform either.

Draq's picture

In my opinion, politicians are people like the rest of us and they should follow rules like the rest of us have to. If I could get banned from social media by posting hate speech or knowingly spreading misinformation, then so should a politician. Censor everyone equally or don't censor anyone at all. What politicians shouldn't be banned for is expressing their views and opinions in a civil manner just because they don't align with the owners of the platform. Basically as long as they play nice they should be left alone like everyone else, and if they don't play nice they should get the same penalties as everyone else.

ronangel1's picture

This would only work if ALL candidates or none were banned or allowed from posting during a particular election giving no favour to either candidate.

sshek_14853's picture

If we ban all, then the poor candidates will not have a viable platform to promote their message. If we ban none, then it will not stop miss information and out right lies and defamation.
There need to be escalated penalty to people that deliberate miss-inform or lie. eg. 1 day, 2 day, 4 day, 8 days.... A geometric escalation can effectively control bad messages.
There should be restriction to only report correct and verified facts. There should also be penalty for people that selectively report their "facts". IE editing out portion of people's speeches, modifying video, only reporting messages that favor a certain view like our current media etc.
Social media companies should also have a social responsibility. They should take feedback seriously and take a non-biased position and allow all messages that follow a set fair and socially acceptable policy.
Well this is what I can think of now. I am sure people can add onto this to make it more viable and acceptable to all.