Republican State Senator Introduces Authoritarian Anti-Free Speech Bill Requiring Bloggers to Report to the State

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This one, as they say, is a doozy. A state senator in Florida has introduced a bill that would require bloggers who write content about elected officials to register and report their work to the state.


State Sen. Jason Brodeur filed SB 1316 earlier this week that would create a program in which bloggers writing about members of the legislature, the governor, lieutenant governor, and other government officials will have to register and file monthly reports with the state “if a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post.”

The proposed legislation defines a “blogger” as anyone “that submits a blog post to a blog which is subsequently published.”

A “blog” is defined as “a website or webpage that hosts any blogger and is frequently updated with opinion, commentary, or business content.” The term does not apply to “the website of a newspaper or other similar publication.”

According to the bill, bloggers must register with Florida within five days of publishing any blog post that mentions a state official. They will be required to file monthly reports listing which posts mention these officials and disclose who paid for the content, along with the amount paid.

“If the compensation is for a series of blog posts or for a defined period of time, the blogger must disclose the total amount to be received upon the first blog post being published,” the bill reads. “Thereafter, the blogger must disclose the date or dates additional compensation is received, if any, for the series of blog posts.”


But wait, it gets better (or worse if you’re not an authoritarian).

The bill would subject those who fail to file timely reports to a series of fines. The blogger would be on the hook for $25 per day after the deadline, up to $2,500 for each post. The idea here is to treat folks who write for blogs as lobbyists. The bill says:

Each house of the Legislature and the Commission on Ethics shall adopt by rule, for application to bloggers, the same procedure by which lobbyists are notified of the failure to timely file a report and the amount of the assessed fines.

Brodeur defended his bill during a conversation with Florida Politics. “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 argued.

However, critics assert that this type of law would likely not survive a court challenge even if it does pass. Ron Kuby, a First Amendment attorney in New York, said as much to NBC News.

“It’s hard to imagine a proposal that would be more violative of the First Amendment,” Kuby said. “We don’t register journalists. People who write cannot be forced to register.”

This proposal is an absurd, authoritarian, and most likely unconstitutional bill. From where I sit, the only way a lawmaker would dare to introduce this type of legislative turd in any legislature is if they are unaware of, or unconcerned with, the First Amendment.


There are several issues here. For starters, does this apply only to bloggers in Florida or would he try to force this on anyone writing a blog post about a Florida politician? RedState’s Brad Slager, who resides in the Sunshine State brought up this very issue and addressed the point nicely:

To take this even further, this would mean folks like myself, who blog for a living, would be subjected to onerous registration and reporting requirements just for doing my job. I spend every day writing about politicians and the overall world of politics – and I get paid for it. Indeed, people like Brodeur give me quite a bit to write about.

If the government’s role is to protect our rights, whose rights are being protected by forcing folks like Slager to register and report each blog post he writes about a Florida politician?

Moreover, I don’t need to lay out the slippery slope here, do I? What do you think progressives would do if they got their hands on a law like this? You know they would not apply these laws fairly – they would almost certainly use them to attack their enemies in conservative media. At this point, I wouldn’t even trust Republicans to handle something like this fairly.


So far, DeSantis has not weighed in on this proposal. As of this writing, there hasn’t been any commentary from other Florida lawmakers – it appears the bill was introduced on Thursday. It could turn out that this is one wacky authoritarian lawmaker’s dream. But if it gets more support, it might become a problem.


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