The state of Florida has introduced a bill to its legislature that would require bloggers to register with the state if they write about a state executive official.
Travel But Not Travel
We try to keep topics on Live And Let’s Fly focused on travel. That could be a restaurant worth reviewing, moves in the stock price of an airline, labor strife, or an airline review. It may extend to political leaders, especially if those leaders affect the travel space directly. This post isn’t particularly travel-related, but we do write about Florida for travel purposes often. For example, the state of Florida just took over Reedy Creek Development, the governing arm of Disney World Resort and often covered the state during Covid as its policies were vastly different to the rest of the US.
However, this is an important issue and we will be blogging about Florida and its leadership as we see fit, so this post is worth writing.
Digital Bill of Rights
State Senator Brodeur, the state of Florida, and chiefly, Governor Ron Desantis, announced a Digital Bill of Rights for executive leaders of the state. From SB 1316:
“requiring bloggers to register with the Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics, as applicable, within a specified timeframe; authorizing a magistrate to enter a final order determining the reasonableness of circumstances for an untimely filing or a fine amount, etc.” – Florida Senate
It targets the disclosure of how much bloggers are paid for content, and requires them to register content within five days of posting to avoid fines up to $2500. It also requires monthly reporting on such ongoing earnings from my understanding.
The target of this by the Senator is to retaliate against those who are able to write from a slanted perspective while they do not enjoy the same freedom online. DeSantis, when announcing the bill, commented on one-sided censorship of conservatives and “shadow banning” on social media for conservative commenters.
His sprawling comments are here, provided courtesy of WFLA, a Florida news station:
News outlets (undefined) would not be subject to the same requirements.
Unconstitutional – Go Ahead And Fine Me
Matthew is the legal eagle here at Live And Let’s Fly and he may weigh in himself. For me, this reeks of unconstitutionality, but a fight that would have to take place following its passage if it were to be approved. Here are some reasons why this insane bill wouldn’t hold muster.
Tracking clicks and relating it to revenue would be a largely inaccurate and difficult process. For the avoidance of doubt, this site has affiliate links that may pay us a commission but last year, for example, those affiliate links amounted to less than three months of a car payment for me. We don’t pound credit cards and ram affiliates on this site, we just don’t do it. We are largely compensated as a result of ads viewed on the site and while some may have grand visions of what that amounts to be, unique views amount to a small fraction of a cent per view. We wish it was higher, but it’s not.
To the shocking dismay of some, this is a labor of love.
To comply with this law as written we would have to accurately attribute revenue from a given page, every day of the month and collate that information. This is a near impossibility. While ad sources calculate revenue based on placement, clicks on those ads, and time of day, disclosing such even to us would be an arduous task that would cost far more to generate a report than it would be in revenue for either party.
Further, as the information lives on the site in perpetuity (there are more than 11,000 posts on Live And Let’s Fly alone), ongoing reporting would have to apply to any post that specifically mentions a Florida politician. (Are the politicians the only ones that are protected? If so, why?) That could mean tracking dozens, even hundreds of posts ongoing and forever only increasing the labor load and cost over time for less and less revenue.
Does this apply to past articles too? How will that be enforced?
What’s A News Outlet?
The notion that news outlets are excluded is an interesting caveat. What constitutes a news outlet? Obviously, having a website doesn’t meet the criteria, so what about online-only news outlets? Do I need to print a single paper edition of Live And Let’s Fly every day? How does one check to make sure I did?
Further, the Governor names some outlets he felt were biased. Under the provision, they would be free to continue to post as normal, while others must register. How does that serve his mission?
Fine Me, I’ll Be The First One
This is so incredibly unconstitutional that I will openly report on the leadership of the state and never register. So go ahead, fine me, make me the first one. I’ll be happy to fly down and bask in the Floridian sun while I challenge the validity of this absurd law.
Florida is putting forth a foolhardy bill before it’s senate to require bloggers to report earnings and make notice of content produced that mentions leadership. It’s shockingly brazen and unconstitutional and I, for one, will fight it to the death.
What do you think? Should bloggers be required to report earnings when referencing state officials of Florida?