Banned. Canceled. De-platformed. These words have entered the cultural lexicon in ever-greater measure as the universally leftist titans of the 21st century, otherwise known as social media, advance their “community standards.” But all these words are little more than scrubbed language representing a single concept: censorship.
Conservatives have long desired for someone – anyone – to not just stand there, but do something about this outbreak of quintessentially un-American behavior. And the brash, fast-rising governor of Florida has risen to the challenge. In passing a first-in-the-nation state bill offering strong protections against the flagrant ideological intolerance of social media not afforded by the federal government, Ron DeSantis kills two birds with a single weighty stone.
He delivers a shot across the bow to those who hold undue power to protect what have become online gated communities, while adding another notch to his belt in filling the America First leadership vacuum left by the defeat of Donald Trump. What could be more populist than responding to an overwhelming popular demand to fight censorship? And who else is demonstrating the determination and ability to roust the MAGA crowd from their current state of desolation?
The remedies put forth in this legislation are punitive. Social media companies can be fined up to $250,000 per day for de-platforming candidates for statewide office, and any resident of the state banned by an online site can sue for up to $100,000. This represents a novel approach to the vexing problem of how to reverse the curse of social media, perhaps because the varied solutions to censorship previously articulated by the right are all fraught with problems.
Attempts to build competing, liberty-minded platforms have failed repeatedly because Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have grown into behemoths, all but invulnerable to competition. Efforts to hold these companies liable for their actions as publishers, like newspapers, instead of their current status as mere purveyors of conversation or “interactive computer services,” would likely force them to be even more protective of their woke brands. Labeling them public utilities would add yet another unwanted layer of government intrusion into a non-governmental sector. Employing antitrust law could deprive millions of the ability to communicate on social media, though in the waning days of the Trump administration, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 46 states sued Facebook for liquidating competition by swooping in and purchasing WhatsApp and Instagram as their popularity was reaching critical mass. The outcome is pending.
But whether this new law in Florida, or any other plan, will generate sufficient popular support or pass constitutional muster is a debate for another day. The story here and now is that an increasingly prominent national figure has answered the call and taken the bull by the horns on an issue of abiding importance to conservatives. And Ron DeSantis has refused to back down in the face of attacks by the left not unlike those hurled at President Trump for four years and beyond. The 45th president sounds more and more like he’s gearing up for one more run at the Oval Office. If he follows through, he will almost certainly capture the GOP nomination. But if he chooses another path, Ron DeSantis will be waiting in the wings, ever closer to center stage.
Read more from Tim Donner.