Bloggers who write about political people are being asked to register with the state by a Republican lawmaker in Florida, which has First Amendment groups concerned and calling the idea illegal.
The bill, filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur of Lake Mary, would force bloggers to make monthly reports with the state if they are paid for posts about its governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members, or legislative leaders.
Bloggers would have to be transparent about who paid them, how much they received, and other details like the URL of the post.
They would be fined $25 per each day the report is late, up to a maximum of $2,500 for each report. The regulation would not apply to content on “the website of a newspaper or other similar publication.”
The proposal, filed last week, has already begun to garner criticism from First Amendment groups who claim it infringes journalistic liberties.
“The only thing I can see is that it’s an attempt to limit and control free expression,” said Bobby Block, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation.
It’s an effort to silence detractors and to make sure that those who want to talk about you do so after giving it some serious thought.
It’s uncertain how far the idea will advance during the upcoming legislative session, which starts on Tuesday in the GOP-controlled statehouse.
The Associated Press reached out to Brodeur as well as Republican leaders of the House and Senate for comment.
In a Twitter post, Brodeur said the bill aims to give transparency to websites that advocate or campaign for specific causes.
According to the text of his measure, it would apply to any compensated blogger to write about Florida’s elected leaders.
“Are you interested in learning the story behind the ‘blogger’ bill?
The post by Brodeur reads. “JUST LIKE HOW WE TREAT LOBBYISTS, IT BRINGS THE CURRENT PAY-TO-PLAY SCHEME TO LIGHT AND GIVES VOTER CLEARNESS AS TO WHO IS IMPACTING THEIR ELECTED OFFICIALS. It’s not a free speech issue; it’s an electioneering issue.
Brodeur also proposes a separate bill to make it easier to sue journalists for defamation, a notion championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.
As he prepares for an anticipated 2024 presidential bid, DeSantis has made bashing the media an essential aspect of his national profile, using a well-liked strategy among Republicans who believe that news organizations are biased against conservatives.
The governor’s administration was unaware of the blogger registration legislation until it was filed, according to a spokesman for the governor. If and when the legislature approves the bill, he continued, the governor will consider it.
The proposal has been denounced as “un-American to its core” by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
The group claimed this was a blatant violation of the First Amendment since it actively discourages bloggers from discussing politics, one of the most essential forms of communication for preserving democracy.