Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is ready to "step up to the plate" against one of the "most pervasive threats of the 21st century"—Big Tech's "Big Brother" efforts to stomp on the Constitutional rights of Americans. In a 45-minute press conference on Tuesday, he announced that he and the Republican-controlled state legislature will work together on legislation called the Transparency in Technology Act that combats the right to privacy violations, Big Tech's censorship, de-platforming, and election interference from companies like Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook.
Transparency in Technology Act
DeSantis opened his press conference with the following statement:
"Floridians should have the privacy of their data and personal information protected, their ability to access and participate in online platforms protected, and their ability to participate in elections free from interference from Big Tech, protected." He adds that technology companies from the West Coast have "transformed into an industry of monopoly communications platforms that monitor, influence and control the flow of information in our country and among our citizens and they do that to an extent hitherto unimaginable."
DeSantis stated that the internet and these companies were once perceived and used to "liberate" Americans from the "distrusted legacy media." However, over the years, the "big tech cartel" has "transformed from being neutral platforms" that allowed Americans to freely communicate to being "enforcers of preferred narratives."
Photo/Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat
The impact of these changes has been profound, even to the point of "playing a decisive role in elections." He said that people are rapidly losing their right to make their own decisions about who to follow, what news to consume, and who to vote for. "Euphemistically named 'content moderators'" are now in charge of deciding what you see and hear on the internet. He wants to return the right to unfollow or unsubscribe to the citizens of his state. 88 million Americans didn't have that choice when Twitter and Facebook, DeSantis says, "pulled the plug" on President Trump's social media accounts.
DeSantis makes the case that the big tech monopoly is so insidious and powerful that it is disingenuous to claim that users can simply choose other services. Parler was designed to create an alternative platform for the disenfranchised. However, he explained, it was "canceled" along with its "2.8 million users"—Amazon, Google, and Apple canceled the service without warning.
DeSantis declared that he would rather be "governed by the first 50 people in the Tallahassee phonebook than the CEOs of big tech companies." Americans' First Amendment rights should not be governed by companies whose "core business is to sell advertising."
DeSantis proposes to support legislation that includes the following reforms:
- Requiring companies to give "proper notice and disclosure" of changes to their platform's policies.
- Require platforms to inform users of any actions taken against them for violating their policies.
- Prevent platforms from "rapidly changing" standards and applying them unequally against users.
- Give users options to opt-out of algorithms the platforms use to steer and suppress content.
- Enable users to bring a "cause of action" against a technology company for violating the requirements of Florida law.
- Empower Attorney General to take action against a technology company for violations under Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Hefty fines will also be put in place for political agendas that are not transparently conveyed on internet platforms. Under their proposal, "if a technology company de-platforms a candidate for elected office in Florida during an election, the company will face a daily fine of $100,000 until the candidate's access to the platform is restored." There could also be fines for algorithms that favor or suppress information for a candidate or cause. Also, if a candidate is promoted in any way, that promotion "must be promoted as a campaign contribution" under the newly proposed legislation. The reforms will "pull back the veil" on the "loopholes and grey areas" exploited by Big Tech to "live above the law."
Republican State House Speaker Christopher Joseph Sprowls also spoke on Tuesday. He said that it's every American's fundamental right to have "equal access to the town square." He added that social media platforms are often "corrosive" and "evaporating our public square," distorting conversations through "deceptive techniques like the use of mystery algorithms and shadow-banning." Those circumventions "distort the public square like a fun-house mirror," he continued. Lt. Governor Jeanette Marie Nuñez attended and Senate President Wilton Simpson, State Representative Blaise Ingoglia, and State Senator Danny Burgess also joined with their remarks.
During the question and answer session, DeSantis explained that social media platforms, while having advantages for consumers, also pose great risks. Their use for human trafficking, child pornography, online bullying, and the "coarsening of American discourse and culture" are "without question" significant threats to the American populace. He said Floridians are not the only people concerned about these issues—people all over the world are worried about the grip that Big Tech has on public discourse.
To the attending reporters who wondered about his claims that censorship and suppression are meted out in "completely unprincipled" ways, DeSantis recalled the real-world consequences of the suppression of the New York Post's Hunter Biden laptop story because corporate media "wanted to beat Trump." DeSantis reminded the reporters that the "story was true" at the time and was indeed found later to be true, but was being sold as "conspiracy...based on hacked information. Are you kidding me? You are trying to tell me if there was hacked information that could damage me, you guys wouldn't print it?! Give me a break. You can whizz on my leg, but don't tell me it is raining," DeSantis said. "You guys would print it every single day if you could, and big tech would allow it to proliferate every single day."
To those listening, he warned, "Today they may come after someone who thinks like me, tomorrow they may come after someone who thinks like you."