Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told an audience at a legislative policy conference in Austin, Texas, last week that Florida is looking for ways to take action against tech companies for their recent acts of censorship.
Speaking at a keynote luncheon hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, DeSantis said that his administration had already been planning on addressing the role that tech companies play in the lives of Americans when the companies suspended or banned the president from their platforms, which he said has made the issue “much, much more pressing.”
“You have a situation where in the election I was very disturbed to see credible articles about Hunter Biden actively suppressed by these big tech oligarchs in a way that I think absolutely had an impact on the presidential election,” DeSantis said in reference to tech companies suppressing news reports from the New York Post.
“And so I’m thinking to myself, if one of you, and I was running and you had me over—I’m running for governor—you have me over, you do something, that would be a contribution. Whatever you’re doing would be considered an in-kind contribution or an actual contribution and yet big tech, they can actually suppress this information and that is just simply okay? That is election interference if you want to be honest about it and that’s something that really needs to be addressed.”
DeSantis said that tech companies censoring reporting on Hunter Biden bothered him but what has unfolded since the start of the new year is “really, really chilling.”
“Now, what Twitter did to the president, he’s the president of the United States, that’s obviously a big deal and I don’t want to minimize that, but I can tell you what really bothered me was how they decapitated this company Parler,” DeSantis said. “You have this, you’d always say, ‘Hey, it’s a market, you don’t like Twitter, create your own competitor.’ Well, they did that and then what happened when it came time, when Parler was gaining all these users—because people understood that Twitter was censoring conservative speech and basically siding with the incoming administration against the outgoing—people started taking their business there.”
“And so what did they do? Not only did Apple drop them. Not only did you have other things, they took them off the webserver from Amazon,” DeSantis continued. “The lawyers quit. They couldn’t even do this. This was a coordinated assault on a company that was trying to compete and so I think about that and say, okay, if they can do that, that means the big tech oligarchy is in some ways, in many ways, more powerful than the government itself. You’re serving as judge, jury, and executioner with no due process and you could effectively wipe someone’s livelihood right off the map. I mean, just think about someone that has a business where they use the internet, they sell things, and social media to advertise, and they have text messaging and email and all this stuff and then they were at a Trump rally six months ago and that upsets some woke staffers at Facebook or one of these tech companies and so then they say we’ve got to silence this person and so then the social media does it and then they take away their texts and then they take away their email.”
“That could totally ruin somebody’s existence and so what’s the due process for that?” DeSantis continued. “So, I think that there needs to be protections for people, I don’t think we can have a couple of these far-left-wing tech oligarchs control the flow of information in our country. I’m not going to accept that and I don’t think any of you are going to accept that. So, we’re thinking through what we can do to provide people some protections. But, just think about, when you’re doing a campaign, you’re sending emails out, you’re doing text messaging, you’re obviously doing social media, you do all these things. What’s to stop them in October of 2022, they coming into Texas and saying they don’t like one of the candidates, and they’re just going to deplatform them off everything. What would the recourse be? I’m not sure there’s any recourse right now under law, even if there was, by the time you sued it wouldn’t be done, it wouldn’t make much of a difference and so, they have really opened I think Pandora’s Box on this.”
“I was somebody that even before this was concerned about it, I supported the [Section] 230, all that stuff when I was in Congress to repeal it, but, I think we’re in uncharted waters and I think we need to really think deeply about, if we are disfavored class based on our principles, based on having conservative views, based on being a Christian, based on whatever you can say that is not favored in Silicon Valley, that if we can be shut up and we can be de-platformed, that is—yes, they’re not under the First Amendment traditionally because they’re not government—but that is to me implicating core First Amendment freedoms and values and I want a society in which we have a robust flow of information.”
“And so, we’re going to take action, I think you’re going to see Texas want to take action,” DeSantis concluded on the issue. “So, we’re thinking very, very deeply about this. I think it’s probably the most important legislative issue that we’re going to have to get right this year and next year in Florida.”