Large tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google could get slapped with fines if they bar political candidates in Florida from their platforms, under a new law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday.
The law came after Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube took the unprecedented step of booting then-President Donald Trump from their platforms out of concerns that his remarks could incite more violence after the deadly riots on Capitol Hill in January. These companies have long pushed back against allegations that they censor conservative speech, but criticism has increased after Trump was barred from multiple platforms.
Under the law, which takes effect July 1, the Florida Election Commission would fine any social media company $250,000 per day if the company removed an account for a candidate for statewide office. Social networks would also get fined $25,000 per day if they de-platformed candidates running for local offices. Florida is the first state to enact these types of fines against social media companies.
“If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable,” DeSantis, a Republican, said in a statement Monday.
Senate Bill 7072, which DeSantis signed into law, also gives Florida residents the right to sue tech platforms and requires social networks to be transparent about their content moderation practices, according to a press release about the new law. Social media companies that violate the state’s antitrust law could also face action from Florida’s attorney general. Tech companies would be barred from pulling down the accounts of Florida political candidates.
Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Facebook and Twitter didn’t have a statement. The Computer & Communications Industry Association, a tech advocacy group, said the new law would be “dangerous” and “expensive.”
“This unconstitutional bill threatens to create more opportunities for foreign extremists peddling anti-American propaganda and fewer opportunities for internet-using Floridians,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement.
Social media companies aren’t opposed to regulation but have raised concerns that the rules could harm startups or their efforts to moderate harmful content. Tech executives have testified before Congress about changing Section 230, a federal law that shields online companies from lawsuits for content posted by their users. On Monday, Nick Clegg, the former deputy UK prime minister who oversees global affairs and communications at Facebook, outlined several ideas for federal internet regulations, including the creation of a new digital regulator.
An oversight board tasked with reviewing Facebook’s toughest content moderation decisions upheld the social network’s decision to suspend Trump from the platform, but left it up to the social network to decide how long he would be barred from the platform. For now, Trump remains indefinitely suspended from Facebook and its photo service Instagram.