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PRESS RELEASE: Heartland Institute Applauds Florida Online Free-Speech Protection Law

May 24, 2021

Heartland has long urged Florida, other states, to take measures to prevent the continual suppression of conservative speech on social media platforms

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL (May 24, 2021) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill Monday empowering the Florida Elections Commission to punish social media companies that suspend the accounts of politicians or censor the speech of their users. Staffers for The Heartland Institute testified in the Sunshine State in recent weeks advocating for such free-speech protections, especially for conservatives and libertarians, who have been targets of “Big Tech” censorship by having their social media accounts suspended, canceled, or blocked.

The law, SB 7072, allows the Florida Elections Commission to impose a maximum fine of up to $250,000 per day for “deplatforming” any candidate for statewide office, and a fine of up to $25,000 per day for deplatforming candidates for non-statewide offices. The new law also gives residents of Florida the ability to file lawsuits against tech companies that suppress their protected speech on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The following statements from tech policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact VP & Director of Communications Jim Lakely at media@heartland.org and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.

 

“As Heartland has testified on this bill and others across the country there has been a strong distinction between lawmakers who prioritize their constituents' right to free speech and those who prioritize the ‘rights’ of the social media companies. The legislative process surrounding SB 7072 pulled back the curtain, revealing where some elected officials’ loyalties lay.

“Thankfully, there are lawmakers like Rep. Ingolia, and Sen. Rodrigues, and leaders like Gov. DeSantis who remember why they are in office and understand the significance of this fight. This legislation is the first step in the right direction to returning to an America where free speech is unfettered.”

Samantha Fillmore
State Government Relations Manager
The Heartland Institute
sfillmore@heartland.org
312/377-4000

 

“Gov. DeSantis, Rep. Ingolia, and Sen. Rodrigues should be applauded for recognizing that social media platforms are no longer disinterested and unbiased actors in contemporary politics. They see that there are two standards by which these firms seem to operate: one that advances their favored narratives and then one for everyone else. Frustratingly, everyone else has been the loser, having been arbitrarily deplatformed, capriciously censored, and randomly demoted.”

Cameron Sholty
Director of Government Relations
The Heartland Institute
csholty@heartland.org
312/377-4000

 

“Florida’s new law is exactly the right way to deal with fraudulent and bigoted actions by gigantic multinational media corporations. Federal law (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) does not give Big Tech oligarchs the right to censor news and other communications. It is intended only to protect the public from obscenity—not facts, assertions, and opinions that make leftists feel uncomfortable.

“The new law protects the speech rights of Florida residents by requiring Big Tech companies to tell their customers exactly why they have been silenced by content moderation policies, and subjecting those corporations to lawsuits and potentially large awards of monetary damages for violations. Big Tech makes a huge fortune by promising to send people information they want to receive, without bias. If they break that promise, they will now have to pay for the damage they do. That is only right and just. The new law establishes the same standard as laws that already apply to other businesses.

“Deplatforming political candidates is an obscene attack on our nation’s election system. Any company that suppresses the communications of a political candidate should pay a heavy price for it. Florida’s law makes that a reality. It is a big win for fairness and justice. Let’s hope dozens of states follow suit in the months to come. There’s no hope for the federal government to do anything right in the foreseeable future, so it is critical that the states act to protect the rights of the people.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Publications
The Heartland Institute
skarnick@heartland.org
312/377/4000

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Author
Samantha Fillmore is a State Government Relations Manager for The Heartland Institute.
sfillmore@heartland.org @GRHeartland
Author
Cameron Sholty is government relations director at The Heartland Institute.
csholty@heartland.org
Author
S. T. Karnick is a senior fellow and director of publications for The Heartland Institute.
skarnick@heartland.org
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