Florida Senator Proposes Bill Requiring Bloggers to Register with the State

This week, a Republican state senator in Florida proposed a bill that requires bloggers to register with the state if they write about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), his Cabinet officers, or any member of the Florida legislature.[0] The bill, which was proposed by state Senator Jason Brodeur, would require bloggers to disclose who is paying them, and how much they are being paid, for posts regarding state officials.[0] Additionally, the bill stipulates that bloggers must file monthly reports if they post additional content about elected state officers.[1] Failure to file reports could result in fines of up to $2,500.[2]

The bill has been met with fierce criticism from civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby, who told NBC News, “It’s hard to imagine a proposal that would be more violative of the First Amendment. We don’t register journalists. People who write cannot be forced to register.”[3] The bill has also been opposed by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which called it “an affront to the First Amendment and our national commitment to freedom of the press.”[4]

The proposal is also seen as an attempt to challenge the 1964 New York Times Co. v Sullivan Supreme Court decision, which makes it difficult for public officials to sue media outlets for defamation.[5] If the bill were to pass, it would lower the legal threshold for a public figure to successfully sue for defamation, allow plaintiffs who sue media outlets for defamation to collect attorney fees, specify that comments made by anonymous sources are presumed false for the purposes of defamation lawsuits, and withdraw the journalist’s privilege against court-compelled disclosure of sources for defamation lawsuits.[6]

The proposed bill has been met with widespread condemnation from free speech advocates, journalists, and media organizations. Sarah Rumpf, an Orlando-based contributing editor at Mediaite, posted an image of the Constitution on Twitter, writing: “Here’s my documentation needed to write about DeSantis, [state Attorney General Ashley] Moody, Brodeur, or any other elected official. I’m not filing any ‘registration’ or reporting my salary to Tallahassee. Go step on all the Legos with this unconstitutional nonsense.”[7]

The bill is currently pending in the legislature and is subject to change. If passed, it will be sent to Governor Ron DeSantis, who will decide its fate.

0. “State bill would require bloggers who write about Gov. DeSantis, other elected officials to register” CBS Miami, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/state-bill-would-require-bloggers-who-write-about-gov-desantis-other-elected-officials-to-register/

1. “Florida Bill Would Require That Bloggers Who Write About Ron DeSantis And Other Officials To Register With State Or Face Fines” Deadline, 2 Mar. 2023, https://deadline.com/2023/03/ron-desantis-bloggers-florida-bill-1235277540/

2. “Florida bill would require bloggers to register before writing about DeSantis” The Hill, 3 Mar. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/3882068-florida-bill-would-require-bloggers-to-register-before-writing-about-desantis

3. “Florida bill would make bloggers who write about governor register with state” Ars Technica, 3 Mar. 2023, https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2023/03/florida-bill-would-make-bloggers-who-write-about-governor-register-with-state/

4. “FL Blogging Bill Says Political Writers Should Register With State” Patch, 3 Mar. 2023, https://patch.com/florida/orlando/fl-blogging-bill-says-political-writers-should-register-state

5. “United States: IPI expresses alarm at defamation bill introduced by Florida legislature” International Press Institute, 3 Mar. 2023, https://ipi.media/united-states-ipi-expresses-alarm-at-defamation-bill-introduced-by-florida-legislature/

6. “Florida’s Anti-Political Blogging Bill Is Just as Crazy as It Sounds” The Daily Beast, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/floridas-anti-political-blogging-bill-is-just-as-crazy-as-it-sounds

7. “Brodeur bill would force political bloggers to register with state” Orlando Sentinel, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/politics/os-ne-brodeur-paid-bloggers-register-20230303-emipin5nzra3tfl23sgdmdosiu-story.html

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