Short Take: Will Florida Own The Interwebz?

It’s not as if Florida is the first state to believe that it can exercise its authority to tell the internet how to behave. California was there long before Governor Ron DeSantis even thought he had the power to proclaim himself the ruler of the web. But he’s on top of it now.

Can he do this? Can he do any of this? No, of course not. It makes as much sense as requiring anyone putting up a lawn sign for a candidate to put up a lawn sign for the other candidate. Private companies can’t be compelled to allow anyone access to their platform that they don’t want to.

If this unfair to candidates who are refused access? You bet. Social media is, without a doubt, an extremely important and valuable medium for political recognition. While it’s not legally the public square, it is functionally a critical place where the people are. Whether it will continue to be in the future remains a mystery at the moment, but it is now.

The problem is that DeSantis’ idea of fining social media if they deplatform candidates for office is flagrantly unconstitutional. It’s also functionally problematic. If Florida wants to fine Twitter, it can get hashed out in court for the next decade or Twitter can just pull up stakes and make itself scarce in Florida. How long would Florida guys go without their beloved social media before sending DeSantis a ticket to northern Georgia?

This is not to suggest the return to the days of usurping private enterprise for the public weal, when shopping malls were deemed quasi-public property by deliberately turning their private property into the new Main Street for the benefit of cash flow without the responsibility of public access. But a candidate for office who gets “disappeared” on social media is at a huge disadvantage in getting her message out. It may well be a terrible message, but that’s the nature of a democracy, where people can run for office, and vote for candidates, even if Zuck or Jack don’t care for them.

What’s a state to do? Not this, but what? Florida may not be constitutionally capable of compelling internet companies to do as it demands upon pain of fines, but what does that mean for the candidate running against the tide?

13 thoughts on “Short Take: Will Florida Own The Interwebz?

      1. Skink

        There will be a delay. I have to send that video to about 3 million people.

        This morning’s Swamp media included a report from nearby Tampa, where a shitwhip was arrested for repeatedly calling 911 to get a ride home. His booking pic revealed a tattoo of the state between his eyebrows. He is Florida Man.

  1. John Barleycorn

    Don’t pretend you didn’t know the Fort Lauderdale porn industry would win in the end esteemed one…..

    The “capitalists” were gonna make the intertubes a utility eventually anyway… meh to that, but I can not wait to see the “Public Access” streams on the intertubes….

    They are gonna be way, way, way, more hip than the stuff that came out of the studios and was broadcast on the teevee set.

    I wonder if every “platform” will have to designate some “Public Access” time?

    Better sell now esteemed one, before you have to start posting the live stream of me flying kites at 4a.m.

  2. Keith

    Removing recognition is the kiss of death in what have become popularity contests, so while I came to read this post with a snicker, you’ve pulled on a chord of legitimacy.

    Once upon a time, the mantra of those running for office was that there was no such thing as bad press…. as long as they spell your name right.

    I’m not old enough to know whether the old guard of newspapers had legitimacy because they had the principled people at the helm or if the readers would revolt if they strayed too far from either side of the established clubs, but my sense was that it was a bit of both.

    Then again, if they printed every single letter to the editor (which is basically what Twitter has become), we may have smashed the notion that readers respected opposing points of view long ago and the papers may have leaned towards yellow journalism and censorship to keep their revenue streams.

    I sense how problematic this can get and don’t relish this future…. but the answer seems to be that users (us) need to do a far better job accepting ideas that we disagree with and take the effort to rebut them. And if we can’t get enough people to do that, we get the candidates that make it over the bar Twitter / FB or Google sets using the metrics their users and algorithms define for them.

    1. SHG Post author

      After the Supreme Court decided Citizens United, there was a lot of shrieking about how money would buy elections. My response is that we only fall for paid-for-bullshit if we choose to be lazy and ignorant. As it turned out, CU didn’t do the harm anticipated, largely because social media is free and ideas, smart and stupid, get amplified by millions of fans, also smart and stupid.

      As for the old guard of newspapers, they were hardly perfect in their efforts to be neutral and objective, but there was faith that they were trying, and there was a focus on facts, even if not always presented in an unbiased way.

  3. Charles

    Even beyond the constitutional issue, the issue has been preempted by federal law. Good ol’ Section 230 expressly states that providers of an interactive computer service can restrict access or availability of material that it “considers” to be objectionable, “whether or not such material is constitutionally protected…”

    Section 230(e)(3) further provides, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent any State from enforcing any State law that is consistent with this section. No cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.”

    He did his undergrad at Yale, got his law degree from Harvard, and spent four years in Congress. Hanlon’s Razor notwithstanding, I can’t attribute this to stupidity. It seems as if he wants to pass a law to pander to supporters while knowing that the courts will knock it down: “See those bad, activist judges?”

    1. SHG Post author

      Not that you’re wrong (you’re not, obviously), but I avoided the pre-emption issue because 230 is a hot button issue at the moment on both right and left, albeit for their own reasons.

    2. Jake

      To say nothing of the impact his ridiculous move may have on tech companies considering whether or not to grace Florida with their presence, and all those juicy, 21st Century jobs.

    3. Skink

      You can attribute it to stupidity. He graduated law school. That doesn’t make him a lawyer. He then did a few years in JAG, mostly as legal advisor to the SEALs (doing. . . ). Then Congress for about 5 years. To be governor, he took a pretty good cut in pay.

      He’s no lawyer. He’s also no thinker. He wouldn’t recognize the Constitution if it was posted on a billboard outside his office.

  4. KP

    Govt- “The next election will start on March 31st”
    March 30th, all candidates get de-platformed.

    This is also being fought in Australia.
    Govt- “All social media will pay newspapers for posting their news”
    Google- “Australia will no longer be able to search.”

    When our overlords are fighting its always entertaining.

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