Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law this week aimed at safeguarding residents and community leaders from big tech speech controls.
On Monday, DeSantis made it illegal for social media companies to censor or de-platform Floridians without offering detailed standards of their guidelines with consistent enforcement, with fines up to $100,000 in damages for each proven claim.
“This session, we took action to ensure that ‘We the People’ — real Floridians across the Sunshine State — are guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites,” DeSantis said in a statement following the bill’s passage into law, invoking the experiences of state residents who fled oppressive regimes where free speech exists as merely a myth. “If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”
It was just the latest episode of the Republican governor taking the culture war on offense after being one of the first to ban vaccine passports — in state agencies and private enterprises — and signing off on bonuses for law enforcement officers as opposed to pay cuts demanded by the left’s movement to “Defund Police.”
The latest move could not have been followed by a more perfect sequence of events to showcase the need for Republicans to be proactive in the fight to reclaim the digital public square as a space for free expression.
Facebook Censors Those Who Decline COVID Vaccines
On the day DeSantis signed Florida’s big tech legislation into law, the investigative group Project Veritas published a leaked memo from Facebook along with testimony from two inside whistleblowers revealing a company effort to suppress content of users who the company has determined to be vaccine hesitant.
The company, according to Veritas, whose CEO James O’Keefe was kicked off Twitter without proper explanation, set up a tiered system to rank content based on vaccine hesitancy with aims to suppress comments rated high on the scale. The goal, described by one insider who spoke with the investigative group, was to “drastically reduce user exposure to vaccine hesitancy (VH) in comments.”
“They’re trying to control this content before it even makes it onto your page before you even see it,” said the individual whose identity is protected by the project.
Facebook acknowledged the program’s existence in a statement to Veritas.
“We proactive announced this policy on our company blog and also updated our help center with this information,” Facebook said.
DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told The Federalist Florida’s new big tech law would not retroactively apply but emphasized residents now have a tool at their disposal to combat unfair communication interference online, which the governor has experienced himself.
“The law requires Big Tech companies to publish clear standards and policies about what types of content aren’t allowed on their platforms — and give advance notice to users about changes to their content policies,” Pushaw said. “Asking questions, expressing opinions, or sharing personal experiences related to vaccines shouldn’t be considered ‘disinformation,’ especially if Facebook users are not given advance notice that their accounts can be suppressed for that kind of content.”
While today’s suppressed content is over vaccine decisions, tomorrow it’s content asserting only women can get pregnant.
Facebook Censors Make 180 On COVID Origin Theory
A second episode of malfeasance this week highlighted the necessity of DeSantis’ proactive approach. On Wednesday, Facebook announced it would no longer remove posts that claimed the novel Wuhan coronavirus was man-made or manufactured.
The move came as new evidence continues to emerge implicating the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in the viral outbreak. There, researchers in cooperation with the Chinese military were engaged in high-risk “gain-of-function” research. The form of research, wherein scientists extract viruses from the wild and engineer them to infect humans in order to study potential therapeutics including vaccines, is so dangerous the U.S. government banned the practice in 2014.
In February, however, Facebook announced in an “update” that to combat misinformation it would remove posts claiming “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured.” This week’s reversal, however, acknowledged the possibility Facebook itself had been perpetuating misinformation for months by suppressing content related to the manufactured lab-leak theory.
Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal gave new life to the idea discredited by big tech and their allies in legacy media as a conspiracy when the paper reported on previously undisclosed intelligence. The story told the tale of three researchers at the Wuhan lab who were hospitalized with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, immediately preceding the pandemic’s first outbreak in the same area. Now the Biden administration has ordered a 90-day investigation into the virus’ origins involving the Chinese lab.
Pushaw told The Federalist that, moving forward, the new anti-censorship law signed by DeSantis would prohibit the kind of speech restrictions experienced by those who offered credence to the man-made lab-leak theory explaining the origins of the coronavirus.
“If this type of discriminatory censorship continues, that would be grounds for deplatformed users in Florida to sue Facebook,” Pushaw said. “Facebook has never provided justification or even explanation regarding their content moderation policies around the lab leak theory.”
The episode of the lab-leak theory suddenly accepted among legacy newsrooms, and in turn, Silicon Valley tech giants who dictate the public square all newsrooms operate in, is on its way to becoming routine occurrence where “disinformation” stops being “disinformation” when it’s accepted by Democrats.