Big Tech bill squeaks through Senate committee

by | Apr 6, 2021


Legislation purporting to crack down on social media censorship narrowly cleared the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee today by a three to two vote.  Senate Proposed Bill 7072, which opponents say will restrict the the constitutional rights of certain companies, was submitted as a Committee Bill and reported favorably.

In part, the bill aims to prohibit social media platforms from de-platforming candidates for political office and enables the Florida Elections Commission to fine a social media platform $100,000 per day for de-platforming statewide candidates and $10,000 per day for de-platforming all other candidates. But opponents say the definition of who qualifies as a candidate for public office will likely result in individuals that have no intent to campaign exploiting the loophole by claiming to be considering a run for office while seeking attention through the posting of offensive or even vulgar content that normally would constitute a violation of a social media company’s terms of use. If the law passes, social media companies would be forced to tolerate the content if the person claimed to be considering a run for public office.

Republicans, particularly Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislative leadership, believe conservatives are being unfairly targeted by big tech censorship, but Democrats argue the GOP-sponsored legislation is a response to former President Donald Trump’s de-platforming from Twitter and Facebook.

As the bill progresses, many conservatives are starting to sound alarm bells about the constitutional ramifications.

In comments before the committee, Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice, an association of eCommerce businesses and an adjunct professor of Internet law at George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School, said, “Look, as a conservative I’m frustrated, too. I get upset when I see acts of bias against conservatives. But I fundamentally believe in a private entity’s right to decide what’s best for its users and its advertisers. If we want, as conservatives, to support decisions like Masterpiece Cakes, Hobby Lobby and Citizens United, we have to recognize the First Amendment rights of a private entity to decide what is best for its users and its customers.”

Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Lee County) brought the bill forward today. He recognized that social media companies are private and said that made it “tricky.”

“However, they have become so dominant through their monopolies that they are actually controlling the dissemination of information on electronic means,” he said.

He explained U.S. Congress passed legislation in 1996 that treated social media differently than traditional media because social media claimed to just be a platform, a conduit of information. He said social media is no longer just a conduit when they are fact-checking and censoring content.

“What I would say is the world that we have today is very different than the world in 1996 when Congress passed that legislation. Google didn’t exist. Facebook didn’t exist. Twitter didn’t exist. None of these monopolies who have come to dominate the world of technology existed at that time.

“It may be time for the court to take a look at this on whether we are governing these entities correctly. I think what is happening now is an evolving process and I think Florida can help lead the evolution with this bill,” Rodrigues said.

Szabo said the monopoly argument isn’t valid, because there’s a “panoply of choice out there,” ie. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Parler, Snapchat, etc.

He said, “When you join social media platforms you enter into written contracts called ‘terms of service.’ We have to ask ourselves … do we believe in overriding private contracts with private businesses? The answer is no.

“This is ultimately about the First Amendment,” he said.

He told the committee he was certain the legislation would face constitutional challenge and not survive it. He explained that recently a group Prager U sued YouTube and a judge decided that “despite YouTube’s ubiquity as its role as a public facing forum, it remains a private forum not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment.”

Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orange County) told the committee that the bill had both good and bad parts.

“The reason I’m not going to be able to support it today is I don’t want there to be a strong arm of government coming down on the social media and those that want to voluntarily get involved with that,” she said

Senator Victor Torres (D- Osceola and Orange County) said, “There’s a lot of overreach on this bill. You know what you sign up for in the social media. I just feel that this bill goes a little bit too far.”

Brian Burgess contributed to this story.

5 Comments

  1. Dennis

    Contrary to Mr. Szabo’s comments, there is no real competition between social media private companies because of their common liberal political biases. These private social entities need to be reined in because they are allowing only biased opinions to be voiced, while censoring any opposing viewpoint based on “political standards.” I have to agree with State Senator Rodriguez, that the intent and rules of social media platforms were different in 1966 than they have become in today’s politically biased and divisive climate.

    Reply
  2. Brian Burgess

    Dennis – there is no real competition because conservatives continue to use Facebook and Twitter. That is a conscious choice we are making. Parler and Gab exist. They offer the same services. The key is that conservatives want to compete in the arena of ideas with liberals, but liberals and mainstream Americans spend their time on Facebook and Twitter.

    So, there is competition. We (conservatives) are just losing right now.

    Your solution proposes to toss out the one thing that we care about most: the constitution, so that we can “win” the social media game. I’d rather lose in the short run while protecting things like the right to free speech and free association.

    We can also win by competing on social media without violating the terms of service those companies have in place. I’ll wager that most of the cases you’d like to point to as examples of censorship are actually legitimate examples of violations of the terms of service by those companies.

    There are statistics available that may shock a lot of conservatives about the number of restricted videos and other content on YouTube, for example – which demonstrate there is a large swath of left-wing extremist content that has been banned or restricted by those platforms than conservative content.

    We hear about the bans on conservatives because we all live in our own echo chambers.

    This is a dangerous bill pushed by well-meaning conservatives, but it’s a huge mistake and my prediction is that good judges will strike most of it down in the coming months.

    Reply
  3. Crystal Burgos

    YOU are so right!

    Reply
  4. Crystal Burgos

    I assume that you do not check your comments’ status after you post them. I do not make virulent attacks against individuals or groups and I also cite sources to document what I am saying. However, time after time my posts are removed. I was made aware of this by my cousin in NC and a friend in CA. When they went back to share what I had posted, it had been removed. However, on only one occasion did I receive notification of that removal. The Muslim Brotherhood got a community award in Massachusetts. I shared that award notification and asked how a group that is labeled as terrorists by their own Muslim brethren and was tangentially involved in multiple terrorist actions and plans right here in America could earn a reward for positive community activism. I also posted quotes from Yemeni and Saudi groups to document the veracity of my position. FB removed it. I put it back up, they removed it again. My cousin forwarded it, they removed it.

    FB and Twitter routinely ban Candace Owens for sharing the truth about the Black community. In some cases, it IS an ugly truth, but it is the truth. Right now in Jacksonville, we have multiple shootings and killings between Blacks on the Northside and Westside. It has now moved to the Southside where a Black man and woman were shot as they were driving! I guess Black Lives only matter when it IS NOT BLACKS KILLING OTHER BLACKS!!

    Reply
  5. Crystal Burgos

    I do not make virulent attacks against individuals or groups and I also cite sources to document what I am saying. However, time after time my posts are removed. I was made aware of this by my cousin in NC and a friend in CA. When they went back to share what I had posted, it had been removed. However, on only one occasion did I receive notification of that removal. The Muslim Brotherhood got a community award in Massachusetts. I shared that award notification and asked how a group that is labeled as terrorists by their own Muslim brethren and was tangentially involved in multiple terrorist actions and plans right here in America could earn a reward for positive community activism. I also posted quotes from Yemeni and Saudi groups to document the veracity of my position. FB removed it. I put it back up, they removed it again. My cousin forwarded it, they removed it. My cousin now informs me every time one of my news blurbs are removed. I don’t even make a comment. I just share a news article from England, Newsbreak, Newsweek, the Washington Examiner, etc. FB doesn’t like the content so they remove it!

    After the horrendous shooting in Boulder, CO Twitter allowed people to post comments with titles “White Supremacists attack innocent people in the grocery”. Within the post they would launch into a diatribe that demonized white people or anyone who had anything positive to say about being white. When it was revealed that the shooter was a Syrian Muslim refugee THERE WAS NO FACT CHECKING. Twitter did not remove the comments and claimed that these virulent attacks against people of another race did not go against their standards. However, if you changed “White” to “Muslim” or “Black” your comment would have been removed. At the very least, each person who castigated “white murderers’. etc” should have had a FACT CHECK added to their comment.
    This is not just liberalism. It is an attack against a single race. It is an attempt to demonize all white people because there are some who launch attacks on others. However, the TIMES magazine article that said there were more attacks by White Supremacists conveniently left out the 2015 attack by Pakistani Muslims in CA that left 14 raising the total of people killed in the US by Muslims higher than that that of those killed by whites. The article was written well after the Pulse nightclub slayings by an Afghani Muslim and the CA Festival slaying by an Iranian Muslim (also initially claimed as white), however, they did not choose to include those death totals because then the data disproved their premise. This was an example of selective data mining, researcher bias and manipulation of statistics!

    FB and Twitter routinely ban Candace Owens for sharing the truth about the Black community. In some cases, it IS an ugly truth, but it is the truth. Right now in Jacksonville, we have multiple shootings and killings between Blacks on the Northside and Westside. It has now moved to the Southside where a Black man and woman were shot as they were driving! I guess Black Lives only matter when it IS NOT BLACKS KILLING OTHER BLACKS!!

    Christchurch where 28 Muslims were killed is cried over on an yearly basis. However, the killing of 100s and wounding on 100s more in Sri Lanka at a Christmas mass AND the slaughter this year in Indonesia during a Palm Sunday service barely get mentioned.

    The CNN over coverage of Trayvonn Martin, their refusal to show pictures of Trayvonn from his current FB page instead using the sweet faced pictures of a 13 year old, their failure to show the injuries of George Zimmerman after his senseless attack , their failure to discuss the fact that Trayyvon was on a 10 day suspension from his Miami school because a cache of male and female jewelry valued well into the thousands was discovered in his school locker, AND their refusal to reveal that he was not a resident at that community all show an extreme bias. The Bosnian refugee who was beaten to death with hammers by a Black gang while his fiancee screamed helplessly was not even given a single HOUR of coverage, neither was the rape, murder and burning of a white girl in Texas who dared to tell a car full of Black males that she was not interested!! Do you see the difference in coverage? On April 18th, a show will be on CNN that dispels the myth that blacks are not serial killers. The black man in this show has over 93 documented murders to his discredit. Right here in Jacksonville, we had a taxi driver who killed at least six of his female fares (also black) and placed their bodies in a secluded dumping area, The FBI STILL refuses to change their profiles!!

    In summation, the liberal media has documented biases against whites, against Christians and against Conservatives! Their bias prevents factual information that shows the other side of a story or even the truth of a story causes a distortion in the American landscape. Once upon a time, the American media printed the FACTS. NOW, what they print either falls within their personal biases or is distorted so that these same biases are not challenged. I have to watch the BBC to get truthful information about America. I read multiple sources and it is amazing how facts are left out of the liberal press. The liberal press demonized Trump, but they coddle Biden. They refuse to show the true crisis on our Southern borders and fail to address the additional porosity of our NORTHERN borders. Hell, they won’t even admit that Biden’s executive orders raised gas prices by 20 cents a gallon within 3 days of their publication and have contributed to an ongoing spiral that has gas prices up by 73 cents a gallon!! Do they honestly think that we are that stupid?

    Reply

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