Florida lawmakers challenge Silicon Valley over ‘censorship’

(AP) — Florida lawmakers, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, intensified their battle with Facebook, Twitter and Silicon Valley when they announced new proposals Tuesday aimed at reigning in platforms they accuse of squelching the free speech of conservatives.

“Over the years, these platforms have changed from neutral platforms that provide Americans with the freedom to speak to enforcers of preferred narratives,” the governor said Tuesday during a news conference at the Florida Capitol.

Social media companies have been simultaneously praised and condemned in recent weeks as they cracked down on inciteful posts they said could foment further violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Conservatives have long accused social media companies and other tech giants of harboring bias against them. Republicans in other states are considering similar bills that push back against social media giants they deem unfriendly.

“Florida is taking back the virtual public square as a place where information and ideas can flow freely. We’re demanding transparency from the big tech giants,” state House Speaker Chris Sprowls said.

About four in every five Americans — some 250 million people — have profiles on social media. Th ose with substantial followings, including elected officials, celebrities and other public figures, have platforms they can readily deploy to amplify their messaging.

On a call with analysts last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the social media giant was attempting to “turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations and communities.” He added that “people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.”

Amazon booted Parler off its web-hosting service five days after the Capitol insurrection. It said in court filings that it did so as a last resort to keep Parler from being used as a venue to disseminate plans for disrupting government and last month’s inauguration of President Joe Biden.