A bill that would crack down on “censorship” by social media companies landed Thursday on Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk.
DeSantis named the bill (SB 7072) a priority ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session after Twitter and other prominent social media companies banished then-President Donald Trump and other conservatives from their platforms following the U.S. Capitol riot.
The bill, carried by Estero Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues in the Senate and Spring Hill Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia in the House, would require social media companies to post their terms of service and apply them equally.
The proposals would also require tech companies to publish standards for handling issues like censoring, deplatforming and blocking users, and apply the standards consistently.
In the past, platforms have removed users without informing them what community standards they may have violated. Conservatives also argue they have been disproportionately targeted with bans, censoring, shadow bans and other restrictions.
Further, the bill would limit social media companies to banning candidates for no more than 14 days, and violations would draw $250,000 fines for statewide candidates or $25,000 for local candidates.
The bill underwent considerable debate throughout the its time in the Legislature, with some Democrats arguing the bill undermines private enterprise.
In the end, lawmakers made several changes. Among them, they clarified that “social media platforms” do not include any information service, system, internet search engine, or access software provider operated by a company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex.
The theme park language carves out Disney’s “Disney Plus,” which inadvertently got tied up in language saying the bill applied to platforms with 100 million users.
Currently, Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act allows social media companies to restrict content that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” Violent content is often clear cut, but “otherwise objectionable” is subjective and has given Big Tech significant power to moderate content, often unequally, conservatives say.
Republicans and Democrats alike expressed their desire for Washington to revisit Section 230. A change, however, looks unlikely.
If signed into law, which is likely, the bill will take effect July 1.