• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Florida must abandon its anti-free speech madness with proposed libel laws

Florida must abandon its anti-free speech madness with proposed libel laws


Is Florida about become the land of the unfree?

Conservatives (of all people!) are pushing aggressive changes to state laws via two bills, both of which passed legislative hurdles last week, that would make Florida the nation’s No. 1 libel-tourism destination.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who claims his state cherishes freedom, looks all but certain to sign them — more or less reprises of two 2023 bills that failed to pass but that seemed to enjoy his blessing — if they land on his desk.   

Why, Ron?

Because you don’t like the press?

Yes, the left-leaning media’s bread and butter is scurrilous and often preposterous accusations about Republicans and conservatives.

Like their whole RussiaGate fantasy. 

Or the endless insinuations that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took bribes.

But choking off crucial First Amendment freedoms is not the answer.

Indeed, it’s an outrage.  

And that’s precisely what these bills would do.

Look at their utterly mad provisions:

  • They’d create an insanely overreaching mandate to take down published content, requiring that a whole article be removed from every single platform it appears on if even a single word is false. 

This impossible-to-comply-with demand will simply lead publishers not to cover anything remotely controversial. 

  • They’d create a presumption of actual malice — a key ingredient in successful defamation suits — if there’s any false statement in a piece on a public figure for which the publisher relied on anonymous sourcing. 

In other words, the bill would in effect ban anonymous sourcing, one of the key tools of journalism. 

  • It would legislate a “right to be forgotten” and encourage people acquitted of a crime to sue publishers to take down articles about their arrests under an endless statute of limitation. 

Hmm, no way the rich and powerful (think: Hunter Biden) would ever misuse that privilege, right?

Please.

News outlets would hesitate from reporting arrests in crimes of immense public interest just because the defendants might ultimately be acquitted.

The public would be deprived of vital news for no good reason.

  • The changes would also codify a statewide venue for all suits over Internet-published content, meaning that a conservative broadcaster in a deep-red county could be sued in a blue one (or vice versa). And they would vastly reduce requirements that unsuccessful plaintiffs pay defendant’s costs, opening the door to endless lawfare and frivolous suits. 

Lawyers would make out like bandits. The public would suffer.

Conservatives might support such lunacy to get back at the press, but they should realize the law would also make it easier for leftists to sue (or threaten to sue) right-wingers to get them to shut up

A host of local conservative voices as well as Florida’s solid-red Reps. Byron Donalds and Cory Mills all think it’s a terrible idea.

They’re absolutely right.

These changes represent a dangerous crackdown on free speech and freedom of the press.

They’d squelch vital reports on government officials and their actions that allow the public to hold them accountable, as in Third World countries.

How ironic: Florida stood as a bastion of freedom amid COVID insanity and a bulwark against every other progressive moral panic over the past few years

It shouldn’t abandon that commitment to freedom with repressive legislation like this. 

Sunshine in the Sunshine State is still the best disinfectant.



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