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Florida passes new anti-censorship law targeting social media firms

Florida law regulates digital platform providers — those that don't own theme parks

Ron DeSantis signing a bill at a desk with standing people behind him

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill to penalize social media platforms that censor political candidates.

The new law, which comes into effect July 1, bars internet companies from suspending politicians' accounts before elections and makes it easier for Florida users to sue them for censorship.

SB 7072 bans social media platforms from "deplatforming" a candidate between their qualification and the election date. If they violate the ban, the Florida Election Commission could fine the platform $250,000 per day.

The law also includes broader measures that prevent social media platforms from censoring any Florida-based users in ways that it deems unfair.

"Social media platforms that unfairly censor, shadow ban, deplatform, or apply post-prioritization algorithms to Florida candidates, Florida users, or Florida residents are not acting in good faith," the text of the bill said.

Shadow banning involves limiting the visibility of one user's material by other users. Social media platforms must allow users to opt out of post-prioritization and shadow banning algorithms when reading material, the bill says. It must also provide a way for a user to see how many other users a post reached. It requires social media platforms to publish the standards they use for censoring, deplatforming, and shadow banning.

The anti-censorship measure also forbids posting an addendum to any content posted by a user. This would prevent social media companies from flagging false claims with fact checks, as Twitter did when former-President Trump posted misinformation online and violated its rules on civic and election integrity.

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The bill also authorizes social media platforms to provide free advertising for candidates. Other measures include rules that stop social media platforms from contracting with Florida government entities if they have been found guilty of anti-trust violations.

Announcing the law, DeSantis argued that Floridians, many of whom come from other countries such as Cuba, have faced censorship in the past. "If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable," he said.

Critics have already hit back against the bill. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said earlier this month that the bill was "mostly performative, as it almost certainly will be found unconstitutional." The EFF has worked with other internet nonprofits to create the Santa Clara Principles, a set of transparency and accountability principles that it encourages content moderation platforms to follow.

The Florida bill isn't the only one targeting social media companies. Texas has a similar bill that recently passed the state senate.

Calls for increased regulation of social media companies are also growing at the federal level. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argued for them to be regulated like public utilities in April.

In a clear nod to Disney, a massive employer in the state and a large player in online content, the Florida bill included an exemption for companies that own theme parks.

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