A Florida legislator has ignited a firestorm with proposed legislation that would force paid bloggers that cover Gov. Ron DeSantis, his cabinet members, or lawmakers to register with the state.
Stae Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Republican, sponsored SB 1316, which would require paid bloggers writing about the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet officer, or any member of the legislature to register with the Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.
Registration would be required within five days. Under the proposed bill, bloggers would also be required to file monthly reports, with failure to register or to do so by specified dates being punishable by up to $2,500 in fines, per report.
If passed, paid bloggers would be required to disclose the total amount they were being paid upon their first published post, as well as the dates that additional compensation is received.
“Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk. They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?” Brodeur told Florida Politics, speaking about his bill.
The bill defines a blog as a website that is “frequently updated with opinion, commentary, or business content” and clarifies that the term “does not include the website of a newspaper or other similar publication.”
The proposed law drew immediate, widespread condemnation.
“Conservatives understandably want to fight fake news, bad faith hit pieces, and unsourced articles. But this proposed legislation is unconstitutional because no journalist or blogger or any one who publishes on any platform should have to register with the government’s ‘watch list’ before doing so,” Jenna Ellis, attorney and nationally syndicated radio host of “Jenna Ellis in the Morning,” told Timcast News in an interview.
“The First Amendment protects anonymous publishers and sources,” she added. “Even our Founders published under nom de plume occasionally because political criticism can be dangerous.”
Free speech advocacy and legal defense group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) called SB 1316 un-American.
“This bill is an affront to the First Amendment and our national commitment to freedom of the press,” FIRE said in a statement. “It is difficult to imagine a legislative proposal more fundamentally at odds with our nation’s founding spirit than requiring citizens and journalists to register their publications with the government under pain of fines. John Peter Zenger and James Madison must be rolling in their graves.”
Staunchly left-wing news media outlet MSNBC said the bill is a “taking page from Putin’s playbook” in a post on Twitter.
As of the time of publication of this article, DeSantis had not yet issued a public statement on the bill.