Charlotte, NC – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill on targeting social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, for their repeated and aggressive crackdown on conservative discourse.
The legislation will fine social media companies for downgrading candidates for state office during election season, as well as making it easier for individuals to sue tech giants.
DeSantis has direct experience with tech companies that censor content for arbitrary reasons. In April, the governor posted a City Hall meeting with doctors from Oxford, Stanford and Harvard medical schools on YouTube.
In response to a question from DeSantis about the need for children to wear masks, doctors agreed that it was not necessary.
YouTube promptly removed the video for “medical misinformation,” then issued a statement saying it was not politically motivated.
This hasn’t convinced anyone, since YouTube already had a reputation for banning conservative speeches it doesn’t like for the most false reasons.
Conservatives have already begun to counterattack the tech giants on an individual level. One example is commentator and comedian Steven Crowder, who recently announced he would be suing YouTube for inconsistent and purposeful enforcement of its rules.
As Heritage Foundation researcher Kara Frederick explained, “In March, YouTube demonetized Crowder’s channel and issued its first demerit of 2021 on the grounds that one of its videos contained misinformation about COVID-19. In April , Crowder got “hit two” under the guise of harassment and cyberbullying. Another offense in the designated 90-day window and will be permanently cut off from his 5 million YouTube followers. “(The Daily Signal is the body of information from The Heritage Foundation.)
While individual actions taken by Conservatives, such as Crowder, are a start, what Florida is doing will set the tone for how Conservatives fight Big Tech on a larger, more organized scale.
Censorship by social media platforms is an existential threat to the conservative movement, but so far the movement has struggled to merge around a single solution. This difficulty in finding standardized solutions is why bills like the one signed by DeSantis on May 24 are useful.
The battle to preserve conservative voices online must be fought on multiple fronts. Besides the individual level, free markets must also be involved.
There are private companies that exemplify this principle of free market solutions. For example, Right Forge is a data hosting company that refuses to remove content that is not explicitly illegal and has a set of fundamental principles based on the Constitution. Likewise, the Locals content platform allows brands and creators to upload and manage their own community of supporters, with minimal interference from the larger platform.
As the tech giants continue to stifle dissent, disgruntled lovers of free speech will create platforms that value freedom of expression. Businesses that appreciate free and open expression should receive conservative support, as this will begin to pressure platforms like Twitter or Facebook to respect those values or lose conservative support.
But just as important as individual efforts or the free market, the struggle to protect conservative discourse should be waged in states.
States, unlike the overly large and all-encompassing federal government, can be localized testing sites for the most effective solutions to censorship.
Conservatives can see which policies are most effective to account for tech companies, keep them transparent, and prevent social media companies from abusing their power over public discourse.
The war to preserve conservative thinking and speech on the Internet will be long and exhausting. It’s good that state governors, like DeSantis, are leading the charge, telling YouTube and others that the right will react.
Individuals and states must keep up the pressure. If we don’t, there may soon be no more safe havens.