Legislation filed to seek suspension of social media de-platforming following Trump ban

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 10:07 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Fallout from the siege at the nation’s capital last week continues as several social media platforms have banned President Trump in it’s wake while conservative-leaning social media app Parler has been shut down indefinitely.

Opinions on the increase in censorship vary, but one side of the aisle is already taking action in the Sunshine State.

“This is certainly not the first time that social media has been misused by bad actors,” said Tallahassee tech expert Blake Dowling.

Amazon ended Parler’s web-hosting service for failing to moderate content that incites violence, while Google and Apple have removed the micro-blogging site from their app stores.

It’s a move some Florida Republicans consider an assault on 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 Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers).

Constitutional experts say, however, the privately-owned tech companies legally can play by their own rules.

“It’s not protected because the First Amendment protections do not apply to private parties,” said Virginia Harmick, a staff attorney with the First Amendment Foundation.

Following Wednesday’s insurrection, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter banned the President from their platforms, a move applauded by Democrats.

“We have never seen a President that would conduct himself in such a despicable way,” said Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale). “So I think that his removal was justified.”

Multiple bills have been filed in the state House and Senate to prevent platforming on the basis of political speech.

“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 viewpoint,” said Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont).

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 would allow users to sue for a minimum of $75,000 in damages.

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

Meanwhile, on Monday, Facebook announced it will be taking additional steps to stop “Misinformation and content that could incite further violence,” including content containing the phrase “Stop the steal,” used by many of Trump’s supporters.

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