Bokhari: Florida Should Pass a Stronger Big Tech Bill in Special Session

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, speaks before signing a bill that increases eligibility to attend private schools at public expense, during a ceremony at St. John the Apostle School, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Hialeah, Fla. The bill is projected to allow more than 60,000 previously ineligible students to seek …
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Florida’s much-celebrated tech bill has been blocked by a federal judge. The bill committed a grievous, very Republican sin: it promised the world to grassroots conservatives, and in the end delivered nothing.

The bill’s provisions sounded promising: daily fines on tech companies that banned political candidates, tough transparency requirements, and a right to sue for Florida citizens affected by censorship.

But because the bill failed to categorize tech companies as common carriers or places of public accommodation, both of which are tightly restricted in who they can deny service to, it was a simple matter for tech companies to argue that the bill violated their First Amendment rights.

That’s exactly the argument the tech giants made, and a federal judge naturally accepted.

There is still time for Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans in the Florida legislature to prove they are actually serious about the censorship issue. The Governor should call a special session, and Florida lawmakers should pass a bill that can’t get shot down in court, even by a Clinton or Obama-appointed federal judge.

When Florida’s tech censorship bill was being drafted in April, we warned that it would be shot down in the courts. The bill failed to follow simple, easy-to-understand recommendations from Justice Clarence Thomas — to regulate tech companies like common carriers or places of public accommodation.

If you don’t regulate tech companies like common carriers, public utilities, or places of public accommodation, you don’t get free speech on the internet.

It’s that simple.

Perhaps defeat in the federal courts was a necessary lesson for Florida Republicans to get their act together. Or perhaps they never wanted to get their act together — perhaps they’re actually reluctant to secure full free speech on the internet for their citizens. Other states are poised to take the lead on the issue, such as Texas, which is currently considering a bill that declares the Big Tech Masters of the Universe are “akin to common carriers.”

Either way, time is running out for them to prove to conservative voters that they actually take this issue seriously. Whether Gov. DeSantis heads into 2024 as a free speech hero or free speech zero is entirely up to him.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.

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