Los Angeles Times

Florida bill would force bloggers to register with state

GOP lawmaker’s proposal raises 1st Amendment concerns — and even the ire of Newt Gingrich.


Fla. — A Republican lawmaker in Florida wants bloggers who write about elected officials to register with the state, a proposal that has raised 1st Amendment concerns and the ire of GOP firebrand Newt Gingrich.

The bill, by Sen. Jason Brodeur of Sanford, would require bloggers to file periodic reports with the state if they are paid for posts about Florida’s governor, lieutenant governor, Cabinet members or legislativ­e officials.

Bloggers would have to disclose who paid them and how much, along with other informatio­n such as where the post is located online. They would be fined $25 per each day the report is late, up to a maximum of $2,500 for each report. The legislatio­n would not apply to content on “the website of a newspaper or other similar publicatio­n.”

The proposal quickly came into the crosshairs of Gingrich, a prominent Republican and former U.S. House speaker, who called it “insane.”

“The idea that bloggers criticizin­g a politician should register with the government is insane,” GingTALLAH­ASSEE, rich wrote Sunday on Twitter. “It is an embarrassm­ent that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediatel­y.”

First Amendment groups argue the proposal violates press freedoms.

“The only thing that I can see is that it’s an attempt to limit and control free speech,” said Bobby Block, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation.

“It’s an attempt to bring critics to heel and it’s an attempt to make sure that people who want to talk about you think real hard before they do so.”

It is unclear how far the proposal will go in the GOPcontrol­led statehouse during the upcoming legislativ­e session, which begins Tuesday. 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 is aimed at bringing transparen­cy to blogs that advocate or lobby for specific causes. The text of his bill states that it would apply to any blogger who is paid to write about elected officials in Florida.

“Do you want to know the truth about the so-called ‘blogger’ bill?” Brodeur’s post reads. “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. It’s an electionee­ring issue, not a free speech issue.”

Brodeur is also sponsoring a separate bill that would make it easier to sue media for defamation, a proposal pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.

DeSantis has made criticizin­g the media a major facet of his national profile as he gears up for an expected 2024 presidenti­al run, employing a tactic popular with Republican­s who view news outlets as biased against conservati­ves.

A spokesman for the governor said their office was not aware of the blogger registrati­on legislatio­n until it was filed. He said the governor will consider the bill in its final form if or when it passes the Legislatur­e.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has slammed the proposal as “un-American to its core.”

“This is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment because it strongly discourage­s bloggers from speaking on politics — one of the most critical types of speech for maintainin­g a democracy,” the group said in a statement.

 ?? Phil Sears Associated Press ?? FLORIDA state Sen. Jason Brodeur says his bill is aimed at bringing transparen­cy to advocacy blogs.
Phil Sears Associated Press FLORIDA state Sen. Jason Brodeur says his bill is aimed at bringing transparen­cy to advocacy blogs.

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