Thursday, March 2, 2023

FL: Want to blog about the governor? Register with the state, or face a fine.

Florida Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) has proposed SB 1316, which carries the innocuous-sounding name "Information Dissemination," but appears designed to intimidate any bloggers who dare to write about state officials.

The bill is an add-on to a law covering government's requirement to publish certain information. It is hard to decide whether the bill is more dumb, more offensive, or more illegal. Let's take a look.

To begin with, the bill is not quite sure what a blogger actually is. Under the definitions of terms, a blog is a webpage where a blogger posts (but not a newspaper or "other similar" publication). A blogger is a person who submits a blog post to a blog. So I guess that totally clears that up.

But if a blogger is posts a blog post about "the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature," and they are going to compensated for it in any way, then within five days they must register with the state of Florida. Then they must file monthly reports with the state ever after. As the bill is worded, that means whether they are writing about an official or not (they can skip reports in months where they don't post anything). 

The report must include who paid the blogger and how much, as well as the date of publication and the address where the post can be found. 

If the report's not made on time (10th of the month) then it's a $25 per day fine, not to exceed $2,500. 

Brodeur has explained that he believes that paid bloggers are the same as lobbyists.

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?

What are they expecting as a result? If I were a betting person, I might place some money on the notion that bloggers like the folks at Accountabaloney and Billy Townsend and Gregory Sampson and--well, it's a long list, isn't it--are secretly being paid big bucks to say mean things about Ron DeSantis. If I had a nickel for every time I'd been accused of being a paid shill for the teachers union, I could buy a state of my own. So maybe they're anticipating a big gotcha moment here.

And of course the side effect will be a directory, a little list of everyone who has dared to write about Beloved Leader or his Helpers. Is that scary? Maybe?

Maybe this is supposed to be scary, and the plan is that bloggers will back off because they are afraid that Ron DeSantis will somehow replace them with his own handpicked bloggers, or just publicly target them for his army of supporters to harass. Maybe he's going to form a blogger police division. I wish these ideas sounded more ridiculously unlikely than they do.

Or maybe they're just hoping to drown blogger voices in a pile of red tape and annoying paperwork backed up by irritating fines, which are, I'll note, are large enough to be a real irritant to small independent bloggers but small enough to be a minor operating cost for bloggers backed by big thinky tanks and the like. 

And I do have to wonder--if some Florida official thinks I'm secretly being paid to bang away at the keyboard, how exactly would they go after me as I sit up here in Pennsylvania writing my blog here at the zero-budget Curmudgucation Institute? 

Just one more wacky idea in the state that seems intent on barreling toward theocratic authoritarianism and the systematic silencing of unapproved voices. Lucky for me I'm neither paid to write this blog nor forced to live in Beloved Leader's state.

1 comment:

  1. And for their next trick, they have a bill to ban the Democrat Party from existing. As Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up!