Florida State Sen. Introduces Controversial Bill to Require Registration of Political Bloggers

Florida State Sen. Jason Brodeur has introduced a bill that would require bloggers who write about the governor or other political figures to register with the state and file monthly reports, including information about how much they are paid for their posts and where the money comes from.[0] If they fail to do so, they could be fined up to $2,500 for each missing report.[1]

The bill defines “elected state officer” as “the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature.”[2] The bill does not apply to websites for newspapers and other publications.[3] After registering, a blogger would need to file monthly reports on the 10th day following the end of each calendar month with the relevant state office.[4] No report would need to be submitted for months during which no content is published.[5] Upon publishing the initial post in a series or during a set period of time, the blogger must disclose the total sum of compensation they will be receiving.[6]

The proposed bill has been met with sharp criticism from those who argue it violates the First Amendment. Ron Kuby, a prominent first amendment lawyer, said, “We don’t register journalists. People who write cannot be forced to register.”[7] Others have compared the bill to a similar measure signed by Vladimir Putin in 2014, known as the “blogger’s law”, which required bloggers with more than 3,000 readers to register with the government.[2]

The bill has been met with strong opposition from free speech advocates. Many argue that it has nefarious implications, such as the potential for state governments to censor journalists’ sources. “If a reporter is hiding behind an anonymous source that may not be a real person, may not be a real source, and putting out what we’ve come to know as fake news, then there needs to be some liability for that,” said Ron Kuby.[8]

Brodeur claims the bill is intended to bring transparency to the political process and to treat bloggers the same as lobbyists. “It brings the current pay-to-play scheme to light and gives voters clarity as to who is influencing their elected officials, JUST LIKE how we treat lobbyists,” he wrote.[9]

0. “Newt Gingrich Demands Withdrawal of ‘Insane’ Republican Bill” Newsweek, 5 Mar. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/newt-gingrich-demands-withdrawal-insane-republican-bill-1785622

1. “Gingrich decries ‘insane’ Florida bill for register of bloggers critical of DeSantis” The Guardian US, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/06/newt-gingrich-florida-register-desantis-bloggers-insane

2. “GOP bill in Florida would require state registration for bloggers” MSNBC, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/maddowblog/gop-bill-florida-require-state-registration-bloggers-rcna73233

3. “Law prof isn’t sure whether Florida blogger bill applies to him, says second bill would help cop defamation suits” ABA Journal, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/florida-bills-weakening-journalist-protections-requiring-blogger-registration-raise-first-amendment-questions

4. “Florida rep files bills ‘requiring bloggers to register,’ helping politicians sue media” KTXS, 6 Mar. 2023, https://ktxs.com/news/nation-world/florida-bill-defamation-law-desantis-trump-agenda-governor-republican-bloggers-pay-register-senator-jason-brodeur-public-figure-falsehoods-supermajority-president-representative-robert-alexander-alex-andrade-campaign-new-york-times-sullivan-privilege

5. “Florida bill would require bloggers who write about governor to register with state, face fines” WJW FOX 8 News Cleveland, 4 Mar. 2023, https://fox8.com/news/florida-bill-would-require-bloggers-who-write-about-governor-to-register-with-the-state-face-fines

6. “Jason Brodeur wants pay-to-play blog posts about elected officials reported with the state” Florida Politics, 1 Mar. 2023, https://floridapolitics.com/archives/591813-jason-brodeur-wants-pay-to-play-blog-posts-about-elected-officials-reported-with-the-state

7. “What is Florida’s blogger registration bill? Know why top GOP leader Newt Gingrich is against it?” WION, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.wionews.com/world/what-is-floridas-blogger-registration-bill-know-why-top-gop-leader-newt-gingrich-is-against-it-569486

8. “Florida House Speaker backs Gov. DeSantis’ efforts to reduce news media protections” Orlando Weekly, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.orlandoweekly.com/news/florida-house-speaker-backs-gov-desantis-efforts-to-reduce-news-media-protections-33650378

9. “Gingrich joins critics blasting Brodeur’s blogger bill” Orlando Sentinel, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/politics/os-ne-brodeur-blogger-bill-criticism-20230306-5ko45frsfbbtbhlms6toqio35e-story.html

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