Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Goes to War With Tech Companies

Joe Duncan

DeSantis takes on the Corporate Social Media Giants

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This Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took aim at tech companies when he signed into law a piece of legislation that gives the Florida Elections Commission to fine social media companies $250,000, per day, for banning political candidates for statewide or nationwide candidates. It also fines social media companies $25,000 if they ban a local candidate.

In what's been described as "the first of its kind," the legislation will take aim at what Governor DeSantis and many other Republicans see as tech company overreach.

The law says that suspensions for up to a maximum of 14 days are permitted, but permanent bans will no longer be allowed.

Tech companies, who DeSantis refers to as "Silicon Valley Elites," banned President Trump from their platforms at the beginning of the year, after the riot and insurrection were attempted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. The Governor also said:

What we've been seeing across the U.S. is an effort to silence, intimidate and wipe out dissenting voices by the leftist media and big corporations.

But for those in favor of the law, the time to start celebrating isn't quite yet.

Governor DeSantis himself verbally acknowledged that "This very well may end up one day in front of the U.S. Supreme Court." The thing is, this law has several practical and legal challenges ahead of it.

First off, it goes against currently existing Federal Law. So, the federal laws already on the books will likely supersede the new Florida law. And they'll likely take precedence over it in the eyes of the courts.

This Federal Law in question is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a section that came under fire by the Trump administration in the last couple of years. Section 230 basically states that tech companies have the power to give users the boot if they violate the terms of service.

And it also protects internet websites and apps from being sued for user-generated content, and it offers protections for removing destructive and harmful content from their platforms, so long as it’s done in good faith.

If an Amazon shopper leaves a horrific, obscene review, for instance, Amazon as a company could be held liable and sued without section 230, while simultaneously being powerless to remove the comment without section 230 as well.

You only need to think about this for a few seconds before you conclude that the section’s removal would cripple any site that relies on user engagement and commentary in order to operate, from YouTube to Amazon to Facebook.

Social media companies would crumble rapidlysocial media couldn’t exist without users socializing and if socializing meant the risk of a lawsuit for the platform, well, you do the math.

This might come into play as we see how this law is received by the courts.

And still, a lot of questions still remain about the details of the law and how it would play out in the real world. A law without an enforcement mechanism can't do much.

How exactly would the fine be levied? Would it be technically legal? And what would happen if the tech companies didn't up?

What would Florida do then? Would it then shut down those tech companies to try and leverage the payment? Or would the fines, too, be largely symbolic? All of these questions are yet to be answered.

No doubt, legal challenges will arise. And no doubt they'll probably be successful, considering the federal law on the books explicitly defends the tech companies' rights to ban users.

Some have said the gesture is a "nod to Trump," and perhaps the Florida Governor may be paving the way for a Trump run in 2024 if the law can succeed and reinstate President Trump's social media accounts that were banned early this year.

Both Twitter and Facebook banned Trump from their platforms for what they described as threats of harm. Facebook recently extended its ban on Donald Trump earlier this month after consulting with an independent body.

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Orlando, FL
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