Republican Rep. Randy Fine is calling on the state to look into its investments with major tech companies and withdraw that money after President Donald Trump was kicked off several social media platforms following last week’s Capitol attack.
Facebook, Twitter and other companies cited Trump’s month-long crusade to stir up his supporters with false claims the presidential election was stolen. That culminated in Wednesday’s Washington rally — which Trump promoted beforehand as “wild” and turned into an insurrection.
While he stated protests should be peaceful, Trump whipped up the crowd during a speech where he directed supporters to protest at the Capitol. Once there, several clashed with police and stormed the building, resulting in several deaths.
In response, multiple technology companies banned Trump citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.” In a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Fine argues Trump and his supporters are being unfairly targeted.
The letter specifically asks the Governor to “order the immediate divestment of any Florida-held equity and debt” in Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Twitter.
“They may get to decide who they do business with. So do we,” Fine said.
“No matter what one thinks about President Trump, he remains the duly-elected President of the United States until noon on Jan. 20. If the President of the United States can be silenced by these companies, then so can anyone.”
It appears Fine has some back up from Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a fellow Republican in the Cabinet.
In response to Fine’s proposal, Patronis said, “We should consider getting this on the next Cabinet agenda. Big-tech coordinated to shut down conservative accounts but still allows [Venezuelan leader] Nicolás Maduro to spread lies.”
Fine referenced other controversial world leaders from China, Iran and elsewhere that remain active on Twitter despite outrageous and violent statements of their own.
“It is clear that Twitter and Facebook are engaged in one-sided viewpoint discrimination targeting conservatives,” Fine wrote.
“These companies allow actual terrorists around the world to use their platforms to target America, Americans, and our allies, without as much as a peep. And it is not disputed that Amazon, Apple, and Google are actively working to eliminate any alternative outlets where conservatives can speak freely.”
Parler, an alternative to Twitter promoted by several conservative voices, has for now essentially been kicked off the internet after Apple and Google blocked the app from its app stores and Amazon revoked hosting services, leaving the app completely offline. Those companies cited numerous calls for violence before Wednesday’s attack that had gone unregulated.
This isn’t Fine’s first fight with a major tech giant.
In 2019, Fine backed a battle against Airbnb after the company removed listings of properties in the West Bank from its website. There too, Fine pushed for Florida to pull any state pension money out of Airbnb.
Ultimately, the company shifted its policies after pressure from Florida and other companies.
Fine said he would be sending the same letter if social media companies were targeting liberal groups. He’s also planning on following up with additional legislation.
“I will shortly be introducing legislation to forbid any state or local government from conducting any business with these companies, effective July 1 of this year,” Fine said. “No Facebook, Twitter, or Google advertising by Florida governments; no use of any Amazon services by any Florida government; no purchases of Apple or Android devices by any government agency.”
Many critics have objected to the outsized power social media companies have given our widespread reliance on their services. And while those companies have pointed to several objectionable postings to justify their actions, Fine argues that enforcement is selective and is disfavoring conservative voices.
“I am deeply disturbed to see the country’s major technology companies use the actions of these few as a pretext to silence tens of millions of good, patriotic Americans, millions of whom live here in Florida,” Fine argued.
“Florida taxpayers should not be forced to do business with entities that censor them.”