Florida Bill Would Require Bloggers Who Write About the Governor or Cabinet to Register with the State


A proposed bill in Florida is sparking controversy as it would require compensated bloggers who write about the governor or members of his cabinet to register with the state or face possible penalties, although the rule would not apply to establishment media.

Florida Sen. Jason Brodeur’s bill, SB 1316: Information Dissemination, would specifically require compensated bloggers to register with the Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics. 

The legislation itself defines “blog” as a website or webpage that “hosts any blogger and is frequently updated with opinion, commentary, or business content.”

“The term does not include the website of a newspaper or other similar publication,” it explains, seemingly excluding many mainstream media websites and defining a “blogger” as “any person as defined in s. 1.01(3) 145 that submits a blog post to a blog which is subsequently published.”

Under this proposed legislation, a blogger who posts about a member of the Legislature, the Office of Legislative Services, or a member of the executive branch for compensation would be required to register with what the legislation describes as the “appropriate office” within five days of writing the post in which the official is mentioned.  For instance, a blog post covering members of the executive branch would be directed to the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund, according to reports. 

The bill reads in part:

Upon registering with the appropriate office, a blogger must file monthly reports on the 10th day following the end of each calendar month from the time a blog post is added to the blog, except that, if the 10th day following the end of a calendar month occurs on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the report must be filed on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. If the blogger does not have a blog post on a blog during a given month, the monthly report for that month does not need to be filed.

The blogger would be expected to use the filing system outlined by the legislature, and information would need to include the “individual or entity that compensated the blogger for the blog post” as well as the amount of compensation. It would also include the website where the post could be found.

The legislation continues:

If the compensation is for a series of blog posts or for a defined period of time, the blogger must disclose the total amount to be received upon the first blog post being published. Thereafter, the blogger must disclose the date or dates additional compensation is received, if any, for the series of blog posts.

If bloggers fail to report to the state, they could face fines of $25 per day, up to $2,500 per report.

Meanwhile, Florida’s House is pushing state Rep. Alex Andrade’s HB 991: Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likenesses, which would essentially make it easier to win defamation cases in the Sunshine State.

According to a summary of the bill, it:

…provides that journalist’s privilege does not apply to defamation claims when defendant is professional journalist or media entity; revises provisions concerning venue for certain actions; provides for attorney fees & costs to prevailing plaintiffs in certain actions; specifies certain persons may not be considered public figures; provides certain allegations are defamatory per se; provides statutory damages to prevailing plaintiffs who are subject of such allegations; creates presumption that statement by anonymous source is presumptively false; provides public figure does not need to show actual malice to prevail in defamation action. 

“We’ve seen countless examples in recent history of members of the journalism profession playing fast and loose with facts,” Andrade said, according to NBC News.

“I don’t believe that journalists have more or special privilege to be protected against the harm that they cause when they act recklessly or negligently,” he added. 

The measures coincide with Gov. Ron DeSantis holding a roundtable discussion on the impacts of defamation from what his office described as the “legacy media” last month. However, he has not endorsed these specific proposals — neither SB 1316 nor HB 991 —  but he has called for broad reforms.

“We’ve seen over the last generation legacy media outlets increasingly divorce themselves from the truth and instead try to elevate preferred narratives and partisan activism over reporting the facts,” the governor said in a statement.

“When the media attacks me, I have a platform to fight back. When they attack everyday citizens, these individuals don’t have the adequate recourses to fight back. In Florida, we want to stand up for the little guy against these massive media conglomerates,” he added. 

Breitbart News reached out to DeSantis’s team for comment on both Sen. Jason Brodeur’s bill, SB 1316, and Rep. Alex Andrade’s HB 991, inquiring if the governor supported these measures in light of his calling on the legislature to tackle issues related to defamation and falsehoods touted by the legacy media.

DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin told Breitbart News that the office is reviewing the bill and DeSantis will ultimately “consider the merits” in their final forms:

We saw it when the news broke, and our comms office is reviewing the bill. This is derived from the legislature (and over 3,000 bills are filed each year in Florida.) As usual, the governor will consider the merits of a bill in final form if and when it passes the legislature.

This story is developing. 


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