DeSantis announces ‘Digital Bill of Rights’ cracking down on Big Tech surveillance, censorship in Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) announced a proposed “Digital Bill of Rights” on Wednesday that will ban TikTok and other social media platforms with ties to China at colleges, public schools, and in state government as well as protect Floridians against Big Tech surveillance and censorship.

(Video Credit: WPTV News)

The “Digital Bill of Rights” takes direct aim at certain platforms online to “protect Floridians from Big Tech harm and Big Tech overreaches,” DeSantis proclaimed during a press conference that was held in West Palm Beach.

“We want to protect your right as a Floridian to have private, in-person conversations without Big Tech surveilling you,” DeSantis declared. “If you want to consent to let them have this information so they can fashion advertising based off of it, it’s your right to consent to do so but it should only be if you consent.”

“We are also going to protect the right to participate in online platforms without unfair censorship,” he added. “We want free speech.”

The conservative governor expanded on transparency in connection to search engines and steps taken to protect Floridians online.

“We want to protect the right to know how these internet search engines are manipulating search results [and have] transparency in terms of what they’re doing so you can evaluate if that’s a search engine that you want to use or maybe you want to take your business elsewhere,” he explained.

“We want the right to protect all of your personal information on the largest and most common platforms,” DeSantis asserted, mentioning Google and Facebook specifically. “They take that data and make a fortune. They should get authorization from you before they are able to monetize that or use it in any way.”

“And, finally, the ‘Digital Bill of Rights’ aims to protect children from various online harms and, as we know, that’s a huge issue,” the Republican icon stated, getting a round of applause.

DeSantis went on to detail the aspects of the proposal, noting that the Sunshine State’s government would no longer allow tech companies to collect information from personal conversations utilizing certain words and phrases to do so.

He also delved into what differs from the federal government listening in on devices via a wiretap, versus what private companies can do.

“So, we’re going to put in a roadblock that says they can’t do that without your expressed authorization,” he stated. “We’re also going to prohibit the unauthorized data collection and retention of real-time information about a user through cell phones such as GPS location, biometric data, and other personally identified information.”

The “Digital Bill of Rights” is just one aspect of the governor’s bigger push against Big Tech and the control they wield to censor users and control the content they promote, or the content they allow you to see on their platforms.

“A couple of years ago, we were the first state to take the lead to protect Floridians against Big Tech censorship and we passed legislation that did a couple of things,” DeSantis noted. “We knew there would be litigation and would have to be decided by the Supreme Court but we decided some provisions of law that said these tech platforms and these social media companies are not — by their own admission — publishers.”

“They are not publishers, because if they were publishers, they would not get Section 230 liability from lawsuits so they hide under Section 230, saying they are not publishers, saying they are open forums, and yet, as we know with what has come out without a shadow of a doubt they are not functioning truly as open platforms,” he charged.

He went on to elaborate on how Big Tech censors conservative views.

“They have terms and conditions and they have certain rules, but those rules are applied with a thumb on the scale against the people they disagree with politically. So you have seen people who have conservative views marginalized entirely, banned, de-platformed, shadowbanned, and all these different things,” DeSantis stated.

“So, what we have said is in the state of Florida we have consumer protection and unfair trade practice laws. If you are advertising as being an open platform, you are taking that liability that says you are not a publisher, you’re monetizing by taking people’s data who join your services and then if you turn around and de-platform someone based on viewpoint, you’re committing a fraud on the consumer. So, we wanted the Floridians who have been affected to be able to bring consumer fraud actions against Big Tech. We also empowered the attorney general of Florida to be able to police Big Tech if they were doing this. We also have protections for political candidates so they could not de-platform a political candidate,” he told Floridians.

The “Digital Bill of Rights” is currently pending in the courts and is awaiting consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“If you’re an open platform, you can set whatever rules you want, but if you’re setting rules and not enforcing them equally, based on viewpoint, you are committing fraud on the public and there should be a way for people to hold you accountable,” DeSantis warned.

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