Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Monday that a new law that aims to protect free speech and prevent online censorship “starts in Florida, but it’s not going to end in Florida.”
Speaking from Miami, DeSantis took aim at social media companies based in Silicon Valley, California, before signing SB 7072, dubbed “Social Media Platforms” into law. The governor said the bill is reacting to the shift from social media being a “liberating platform to suppressing ideas that are inconvenient to the narrative.”
He blamed Silicon Valley as the “major reason this country is divided,” pointing to the shadow banning of people to create partisan echo chambers.
“Every day they act as the proverbial big brother,” DeSantis said, specifically blaming Big Tech for stifling online voices who challenged the efficacy of coronavirus lockdowns and the origin of COVID-19.
The new law will give Floridians the right to sue social media platforms that shut down accounts, or delete comments without legitimate reason. A court can award up to $100,000 in damages for each proven claim, DeSantis said.
The legislation also prevents Florida candidates running for office to be deplatformed and allows Floridians the right to block any candidate platform.
“A social media platform may not knowingly deplatform a candidate,” the law states. “Upon a finding of a violation of this section by the Elections Commission, in addition to the remedies provided in, the social media platform may be fined $100,000 per day for statewide candidates and $10,000 per day for other candidates.”
Republicans in the Legislature pushed the law through last month over Democratic opposition. Democrats specifically objected to a carve-out for Disney and said the bill’s aims were political, the Associated Press reported.
The bill represents a type of role reversal for the parties, with Democrats arguing that the government should not regulate private companies and Republicans largely supporting the regulation effort in the name of free speech.
At Monday’s signing ceremony, DeSantis predicted the bill will lead to more speech.
“If you believe in the power of your own ideas, you should welcome debate,” he said. “Protecting everyday Floridians and ensuring we have more speech, not less.”