A member of the Florida legislature is urging the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, to divest taxpayer funds from technology giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter for attempting to “silence tens of millions good, patriotic Americans.”
Randy Fine, a third-term GOP member of the Florida House of Representatives, sent a letter to DeSantis on Tuesday urging the governor and his cabinet to cut off state tax dollars from Big Tech firms—including Apple, Twitter, and Google, among others. In his letter, Fine claimed the move was necessary given the efforts such companies had taken to “silence” President Donald Trump and his supporters after the recent riot at the United States Capitol.
“Last week’s attack of the United States Capitol was one of the saddest days of my life,” Fine, who served as a congressional page in his youth, wrote. “Those terrorists defiled a sacred temple of democracy, and in my mind, there is no penalty too severe for them.”
“I say this because those terrorists do not define me,” he added. “They do not define you… And they do not define conservatives.”
While Fine unequivocally denounced the violence and rioting, the legislator also argued that the crackdowns by Twitter and Facebook on Trump’s social media presence, coupled with Amazon and Google’s attempts to restrict access to the conservative social network site Parler, amounted to a “one-sided viewpoint discrimination.”
“No matter what one thinks about President Trump, he remains the duly-elected president of the United States until noon on January 20th,” Fine wrote. “If the president of the United States can be silenced by these companies, then so can anyone.”
“These companies allow actual terrorists around the world to use their platforms to target America, Americans, and our allies, without as much as a peep,” the legislators added.
This morning I asked the Governor and Cabinet to divest the state from Amazon, Twitter, Apple, Google, and Facebook. They may get to decide who they do business with. So do we. @Fla_Pol pic.twitter.com/QfoUhghgnP
— Randy Fine (@VoteRandyFine) January 12, 2021
It is unclear if DeSantis will choose to follow through on Fine’s proposal to divest from Big Tech. The governor, who was first elected to office in 2018, has been a strong proponent of conservative causes throughout his tenure.
DeSantis has also been a steadfast ally of Trump, who has been pushing a repeal of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act during his final weeks in office. The section, as it stands currently, provides broad legal protection for social media companies, most notably Twitter and Facebook, regarding content posted by users of their platforms.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a confidant of both DeSantis and Trump, has argued that section 230 grants technology companies “special immunities that even local newspapers, even your television network doesn’t enjoy in terms of their responsibility for content.”
“They enjoy those protections because they hold themselves out to be unbiased and neutral platforms,” Gaetz said during an appearance on CNBC in June 2019. “But if they aren’t willing to demonstrate they, in fact, are unbiased and neutral, I think we should repeal that section of the law.”
While it remains uncertain how DeSantis will respond to Fine’s call for divesture, if the governor were to take such steps, it would complicate Florida’s attempts to woo Silicon Valley giants to relocate to the state. Even before the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Florida’s political and business leaders were advertising the state as the perfect locale for entrepreneurs and technology companies fleeing the high taxes and regulations of states like California.
Miami’s Republican mayor, Francis Suarez, has particularly been championing the city as the country’s next major technology hub.
“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to attract the entrepreneurial and intellectual class of our country to Miami to create high-paying jobs in a city like ours that wants to continue to grow,” Suarez said during a recent appearance on Fox Business.