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Florida’s big government approach on tackling big tech | Opinion

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Last week, Florida reached new milestones in their initiative to punish big tech. Gov. DeSantis’ Transparency in Technology Act cleared its second committee meeting and Attorney General Ashley Moody signed onto another lawsuit aimed to regulate big tech. These efforts come at a time when more and more businesses are relying on digital tools to keep their doors open.

The Technology in Transparency Act aims to prevent social media companies from de-platforming candidates running for office in Florida, while affording the state attorney general powers to heavily fine said companies, should a candidate be removed for violating the platform’s community guidelines. Commerce Committee Chairman Blaise Ingoglia claims “big tech makes up the rules as they go,” and the proposed act is designed to “enforce some common sense standards on big tech monopolies.”

I would argue the act is a concerning example of big government willfully regulating private companies, as private companies are capable and constitutionally protected to regulate their businesses according to their terms, not the government’s.

Moody has signed onto two antitrust lawsuits, the first against Facebook and the second, recently announced, against Google. The lawsuits allege tech giants have participated in unfair business practices that hurt consumers yet fails to consider the digital safety net afforded to small businesses by these same companies. The lawsuits presume because technology companies are large and successful, they are bad to consumers. But in reality, the same companies have helped support businesses around the country, many that call Florida their home.

In Google’s 2020 economic impact report, Google reported $21.58 billion of economic activity for over 187,000 businesses in Florida alone. It also provided $30.9 million of free advertising to Florida nonprofits through the Google Ad Grants program. In 2019, Amazon spent $15 billion on logistics, tools, services and programs to fuel the success of its third-party sellers, nearly all of whom are small businesses. In the same year, Amazon contributed to 50,000 jobs to Florida’s economy.

If technology companies are bogged down with red tape, the ones who will reap the consequences will be small businesses in the form of higher costs for services, no longer being able to properly intercept content that violates their established terms and agreements.

If content moderation is the concern, it should be the U.S. Congress that revisits the current law, called Section 230, which provides specific rules to tech platform service providers. Having 50 states develop their own balkanized rules is counterproductive and grossly inefficient to the provision of national online services that consumers demand.

Big government is not the answer here.

Steve Pociask is president of the American Consumer Institute.

Read in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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