Florida Sen. Proposes Bill Requiring Bloggers to Register, File Reports on Government Officials

Florida State Sen. Jason Brodeur has proposed a bill that would require any blogger writing about government officials in the state of Florida to register with the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.[0] The bill, Senate Bill 1316: Information Dissemination, would require bloggers to register within five days of their first post if they receive or will receive compensation for the post.[0] If a blogger fails to register, they would face fines of $25 per day, up to $2,500.[1]

The bill defines a blog as “a website or webpage that hosts any blogger and is frequently updated with opinion, commentary, or business content,” and a blog post as “an individual webpage on a blog which contains an article, a story, or a series of stories.”[2] Bloggers must also file monthly reports on the 10th day of each month, disclosing the entity that provided compensation for the post, the amount of compensation, the date of the blog post, and the website and website address.[3]

The bill comes at a time when Florida has become increasingly authoritarian under the governance of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has sought to stifle dissent and promote the state as “the free state of Florida.”[4] In addition, a bill was proposed earlier this year that would lower the bar on who is considered a public figure and what qualifies as defamation in the first place, making it easier for public figures to sue reporters.[4]

The bill also goes against the landmark 1964 decision in New York Times v Sullivan, which established that public figures must prove that the reporting was not just false, defamatory, and negligent, but also “actual malice” in order to sue media outlets.[5]

The proposed bill has been met with criticism from those who believe it amounts to an attack on the freedom of the press and violates the First Amendment. However, Sen. Brodeur has defended the bill, arguing that if lobbyists are required to register and report, then paid bloggers should be held to the same standard.

If the bill is passed, bloggers can expect to face increased scrutiny and potential fines if they fail to file timely reports.[6] It would also require bloggers to disclose the total amount of compensation, if any, for a series of posts or for a specified amount of time.[6] The bill is a reminder of the importance of press freedom and the need to protect it from censorship and other attempts to stifle dissent.

0. “Florida Republicans attempt to chill free speech” Boing Boing, 2 Mar. 2023, https://boingboing.net/2023/03/02/florida-republicans-attempt-to-chill-free-speech.html

1. “Florida Bill Would Require That Bloggers Who Write About Ron DeSantis And Other Officials To Register With State Or Face Fines” Yahoo Entertainment, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/florida-bill-require-bloggers-write-235753494.html

2. “Florida bill would require bloggers who write about governor, legislators to register with the state” AOL, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.aol.com/news/florida-bill-require-bloggers-write-013223087.html

3. “Florida Could Require Registration for Bloggers Writing About Elected Officials” WebProNews, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.webpronews.com/florida-could-require-registration-for-bloggers-writing-about-elected-officials/

4. “Florida’s Anti-Political Blogging Bill Is Just as Crazy as It Sounds” Yahoo News, 3 Mar. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/florida-anti-political-blogging-bill-020632463.html

5. “Other View: Overturning press protection would be a dodge of accountability” Duluth News Tribune, 26 Feb. 2023, https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/editorials/other-view-overturning-press-protection-would-be-a-dodge-of-accountability

6. “Florida bill would require bloggers who write about governor to register with the state” msnNOW, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/florida-bill-would-require-bloggers-who-write-about-governor-to-register-with-the-state/ar-AA1896Tx?ocid=weather-verthp-feeds

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