A Florida legislator is introducing an outlandish piece of legislation that would force bloggers to register with the state.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1316: Information Dissemination, would apply to bloggers who write about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), his Cabinet, Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), and the state legislature.
According to the bill, anyone who writes “an article, a story, or a series of stories” about “the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature” and is paid must register with the state within five days of the publication of the article.
If another post is added, the blogger must submit a report on the 10th of every month.
And if there is a month when there is no new content, they would still have to report it.
NBC News reports, “The bill says the bloggers’ reports to the state ‘must include’ the ‘individual or entity that compensated the blogger for the blog post,’ and ‘the amount of compensation received from the individual or entity.'”
It added the legislation “defines a blog as ‘a website or webpage that hosts any blogger and is frequently updated with opinion, commentary, or business content,’ but it says the ‘term does not include the website of a newspaper or other similar publication.'”
State Sen. Jason Brodeur (R), who introduced the bill, told the website Florida Politics, “Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk. They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?”
A blogger who declines to register with the state would be subjected to a penalty of $25 per day. The penalty would be capped at $2,500 per post.
Florida bill would require bloggers who write about governor to register with the state https://t.co/ha1agWbeLy
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) March 3, 2023
It would appear this legislation may be designed to counter something we saw during the 2022 election cycle, where Democratic operatives made websites designed to look like local news outlets. In reality, the sites were pumping out content meant to boost Democrats.
Still, this is a crazy bill. There is no way it would stand up to a legal challenge if it were to become law.
In a statement, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) labeled the bill “fundamentally un-American” and “an affront to the First Amendment and our national commitment to freedom of the press.”
“It is difficult to imagine a legislative proposal more fundamentally at odds with our nation’s founding spirit than requiring citizens and journalists to register their publications with the government under pain of fines,” it continued. “The First Amendment protects not only a free press, but the right to speak anonymously — a cherished tradition from America’s earliest days, when anonymous pamphleteers played a crucial role in the founding of our constitutional republic.”
The idea the state would be tracking when a website posts a blog, who is paying for posts, and how much writers are being paid is disturbing. The government has no business tracking such information.
And the bill does not specify what would qualify other than stating it would not apply to newspapers. If some friends start a podcast and a blog about politics as a hobby and receive contributions from Patreon, would a contributor to the blog, who is not a political operative but was paid for their post, have to register with the state?
Admittedly, the fines of $25 a day are not too severe. But it could have a chilling effect on bloggers and free speech. They would have to choose between disclosing who is compensating them, how much they are receiving, and how often they are posting, or just not writing about the state government. And again, this is just not information the state needs to know.
This bill is a terrible idea and one that runs contrary to our notions of free speech and freedom of the press. And it should be promptly rejected by the legislature.
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