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Florida Republicans take aim at social media censorship

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 10:43 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - After the President’s removal from multiple social media platforms calls among Florida Republicans to take action against social media censorship are growing.

Multiple bills have been filed for the 2021 Legislative Session to prevent de-platforming on the basis of political speech.

Following Wednesday’s insurrection at the US Capitol, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter banned President Donald Trump from their platforms.

It’s a move applauded by Florida Democrats like State Senator Perry Thurston.

“We have never seen a President that would conduct himself in such a despicable way. So I think that his removal was justified,” said Thurston.

Google, Apple and Amazon also took action to de-platform the conservative-leaning social media app Parler.

Florida Republicans like State Senator Ray Rodrigues consider it an assault of free speech.

“It seems like big tech is using their resources to push their political agenda and to silence those who do not agree with them,” said Rodrigues.

Legislation filed in the Senate would require social media companies to inform users why they were banned within 30 days.

A bill in the House goes much further.

It would allow users to sue if they’re banned for political or religious speech for a minimum of $75,000 in damages.

“All we’re doing here is saying, hey there’s a new business regulation. If you’re ‘X’ amount of size you cannot discriminate based on political view point,” said State Representative Anthony Sabatini, who is sponsoring the House bill.

The House bill does allow social media companies to ban users for calls to violence, posting pornography, impersonation or if a court orders the account to be removed.

“The companies could still moderate, but they can’t use the moderation exception to Section 230 to basically publish what it is they like and don’t like,” said Sabatini.

And while the Senate version currently doesn’t go as far as the house’s, the sponsor pledged to make it stronger as it moves through the Legislature.

If the legislation ultimately passes, it could potentially be used by President Donald Trump, who is a Florida resident, to seek retribution for his bans from social media platforms.

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