Florida lawmakers intensified their battle with Facebook, Twitter and Silicon Valley when they announced new proposals on Tuesday aimed at reigning in platforms they accuse of squelching the free speech of conservatives.
Social media companies have been simultaneously praised and condemned in recent weeks as they cracked down on insightful posts they said could foment further violence. Conservatives have long accused social media companies and other tech giants of harboring bias against them. Republicans in other states are considering similar bills that push back against social media giants they deem unfriendly. About four in every five Americans have profiles on social media. Those with substantial followings have platforms they can readily deploy to amplify their messaging.
Mark Zuckerberg said that the social media giant Facebook was attempting to
“turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations and communities. People don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.”
The Florida lawmakers’ moves may end up being mere political theater. Legal experts say that other local jurisdictions have a high bar in justifying regulations that might infringe on free speech issues.
“The big tech companies have the duty to allow differing views on their public platforms. No one should be excluded,” State Senate President Wilton Simpson said. “But let’s be clear: They are targeting conservatives.”
One proposal in the state Senate would force social media platforms to give users a month’s notice before suspending their accounts. The proposal also would allow consumers to sue if they’ve been treated unfairly and would authorize the state attorney general to take on the country’s largest tech companies for anti-competitive practices. Social media companies would be required to reveal how they became aware of any content they censor.