Flanked by legislators and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared war Tuesday on a “big tech cartel” that has played fast and loose with Florida’s “public square” for too long, and he issued a series of recommendations that seem destined for fast track legislation this year as the Transparency in Technology Act.
“Today they may come after someone who looks like me. Tomorrow they may come after someone who looks like you,” DeSantis warned toward the end of long-form remarks decrying tech companies and vowing action.
The Governor, addressing reporters at the State Capitol after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, blasted the “monopoly of communications platforms” that “monitor and control” Floridians.
Among the proposals the Governor outlined were the following: requiring notice of change of terms of services; preventing platforms from rapidly changing standards; allowing people to opt out of content algorithms; $100,000 daily fines for “deplatforming” candidates for office; and creating a “cause of action” pathway for legal action, either from the Attorney General or private citizens under the guise of deceptive and unfair practices.
The moves to “protect privacy” from the expanding powers of Big Tech are necessary because the system is rigged, the Governor asserted.
Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms have “changed from neutral platforms to enforcers of preferred narratives,” DeSantis said.
“I’m committed to addressing what may be one of the most pervasive threats to American self-government in the 21st century.”
The Governor referred to hosting issues encountered by the right-wing Parler site and with social media deplatforming Donald Trump as prime examples of the political bias of what he called “oligarchs in Silicon Valley” and “monopolies whose core business is to sell advertising.”
“You don’t like Parler, don’t read it,” the Governor advised, saying Parler was subject to “decapitation” when deprived of hosting services for content reasons, “canceled” after 2.8 million people adopted it.
Regarding Trump, “content moderators on Twitter pulled the plug.”
“Big Tech looks more like Big Brother every year,” DeSantis said, adding that this is “real life, not George Orwell‘s fiction.”
DeSantis riffed on so-called “content moderators,” a name for these “nameless, faceless boards of censors.”
DeSantis claimed social media companies like Twitter and Facebook are functional monopolies, with “power far more pervasive than Standard Oil” had at its peak.
To that end, DeSantis hopes to “stop Big Tech’s practice of preying on consumers.”
“They change the rules constantly based on what they deem to be politically correct at any moment in time,” DeSantis said, regarding changes of terms of service he described as “moving the goalposts on Floridians” and “discrimination, pure and simple.”
The Governor took issue with “political manipulation” from tech companies, and vowed to “take aim at these companies and pull back the veil.”
“You can look no further than the last several months of the election as coordinated, calculated efforts were undertaken to advance an increasingly evident political agenda of the Big Tech companies.”
His “loud and clear” message is that “when it comes to elections in Florida, big tech should stay out of it.” Free promotion of candidates should be recorded as in-kind political contributions, DeSantis said.
DeSantis had some fiery exchanges with reporters on a number of matters, including the Hunter Biden story that Twitter and other outlets suppressed.
“The Hunter Biden story was true. The typical corporate media outlets chose to ignore it. They wanted to beat Trump,” DeSantis said, noting the New York Post story “couldn’t get any traction.”
The Governor also questioned the assertion that the Biden story was inadmissible because it was based on “hacked information,” suggesting the Capitol press corps wouldn’t hesitate to bury him with purloined papers.
“You’re trying to tell me if there’s hacked information that could damage me, you guys wouldn’t print it,” DeSantis said. “Give me a break. You can whiz on my leg but don’t tell me it’s raining. You guys would print it every single day if you could. And Big Tech would allow it to proliferate 24/7.”
The Governor has strong support in the House and the Senate.
Senate President Wilton Simpson said Big Tech is “targeting conservatives,” urging Congress to act so that more can be done than the steps DeSantis outlined.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls described DeSantis as the “national leader” on tech depredations, saying Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican who formerly chaired the party, would be the “point person” on this issue.
“Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon and Apple,” Sprowls said, will see their hegemony “come to an end.”
Ingoglia likewise bemoaned arbitrary decisions to stifle content, saying the push today is “about demanding transparency, about demanding consistency” from an industry too often unchecked.
The legislation will emerge as a proposed committee bill from House Commerce.