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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs 'big tech' crackdown bill into law

The law aims to punish social media companies for censoring lawmakers and candidates.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that aims to crack down on big tech companies. 

The governor signed the bill at Florida International University. 

The law makes it so if a tech company de-platforms or censors any candidate running for statewide office, they could face a fine of up to $250,000 per day from the Florida Election Commission. A fine of  $25,000 a day could be imposed on social media platforms that de-platform candidates for non-statewide offices. 

DeSantis had made this piece of legislation a top priority since early February after several companies de-platformed notable users and websites said to be spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories.

“This session, we took action to ensure that ‘We the People’ — real Floridians across the Sunshine State — are guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites,” DeSantis said. “Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in Cuba and Venezuela. If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”

DeSantis said the bill aims to stop big tech companies from "moving the goalposts” to silence viewpoints they don’t like.

The new law also requires social media companies to be more transparent about how they moderate their content. The companies must now give users "proper notice of changes to those policies."

DeSantis said Floridians have the right to block candidates they don't want to see or hear from because that's their right. However, he said it's not for the tech companies to decide. 

During the signing, DeSantis used information-sharing regarding the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. He said at the beginning, social media platforms would censor anybody who said the virus may have originated in a Wuhan lab. 

But, now that Dr. Fauci says that's a possibility, DeSantis asked if he would get de-platformed. 

"Are they now going to censor Fauci and pull him down, off social media?" DeSantis asked. 

RELATED: Dr. Fauci 'not convinced' coronavirus developed naturally

This law makes it possible for the Attorney General of Florida to go after tech companies that violate this law, under Florida’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The most notable person de-platformed from mainstream social media sites is former President Donald Trump. His ban from social media came after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol sparked debate among lawmakers as to the influence social media companies have on the nation's conversations. 

Earlier this month, Facebook's oversight board decided to uphold the company's decision to restrict former President Donald Trump's access to post content on his Facebook and Instagram pages.

However, the board also said it was inappropriate for Facebook to impose an indefinite suspension and instructed the social media company to review this matter further " to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform."

The board said Facebook needs to review the situation within six months of the date of its decision. Click here to read the full decision from the board.

While his Twitter ban is permanent, the fate of his Facebook account had hinged on the decision of the oversight board. 

Twitter declined to comment on Gov. DeSantis' signing of the law but directed 10 Tampa Bay to statements from the industry, including one from Computer & Communications Industry Association President Matt Schruers.

“This unconstitutional bill threatens to create more opportunities for foreign
extremists peddling anti-American propaganda and fewer opportunities for
internet-using Floridians," Schruers wrote. "If the Florida legislature actually believed that efforts to protect internet users from harmful content threatened free expression, it wouldn’t be excluding digital services that own local theme
parks.”

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