Florida Bill Would Require That Bloggers Who Write About Ron DeSantis And Other Officials To Register With State Or Face Fines

A Florida lawmaker has proposed a bill that would require bloggers who write about Governor Ron DeSantis or other elected officials to register with the state or face fines.

The legislation, proposed by State Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Republican, also would require that the bloggers disclose how much they are being paid for their posts.

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Brodeur did not immediately return a request for comment.

Under the terms of the bill — read it here — “if a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post, the blogger must register with the appropriate office” within “5 days after the first post by the blogger which mentions an elected state officer.”

It also requires that bloggers file monthly reports if a post is added to the blog. The reports must disclose the “individual or entity” that provided compensation for the blog post, the amount of compensation, the date of blog posts, and the website and website address. Fines are set at $25 per day per report for each day late, not to exceed $2,500.

The bill applies to bloggers who write about the governor, lieutenant governor, a cabinet officer or any member of the state legislature.

The bill defines a blogger as “a website or webpage that hosts any blogger and is frequently updated with opinion, commentary, or business content.” It excludes “the website of a newspaper or any similar publication.” Registration would have to be made to the Department of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.

Brodeur also has proposed legislation to make it easier for plaintiffs to sue for defamation. Under the proposal, public figures in many cases would be able to prove defamation by showing negligence, rather than the current higher threshold of showing that a publication acted in malice or reckless disregard for the truth. Under the bill, anonymous sourced material would largely be presumed to be false. DeSantis held a roundtable last month in which he attacked the news media, while he reportedly is championing efforts to weaken journalists’ protections. Any of the new laws would likely face a First Amendment challenge, but the idea would be to get a case to the Supreme Court and ultimately overturn nearly 60 years of precedent.

Bobby Block, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, said about the defamation bill, “Fox, Newsmax, conservative talk radio stations will all feel the sting of this new law as public figures across the political spectrum look to exact their vengeance against inconvenient news coverage and commentary. The fallout would just as likely crush Fox’s Tucker Carlson as it would the NYT’s Paul Krugman.”

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