By Hudson Crozier
What’s happening: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is reviewing a bill by state Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) that would require bloggers who write about Florida government officials to register their content with the state. The mainstream media labeled it as an attack on freedom, though it could add transparency to political campaigning.
What the bill says: Paid bloggers who write a post about Florida elected officials would file a report within five days that includes the "individual or entity” who paid them for the post and how much they paid. There would be fines of $25 per day for not reporting, with a maximum of $2,500 per post. The law would not apply to “a newspaper or other similar publication.”
Is this a real problem? Independent bloggers, pundits, and social media influencers are under scrutiny for quietly accepting partisan funding from politicians and political campaigns on both sides of the aisle. If passed and signed, the bill could require conflicts of interest to be exposed ahead of the 2024 primary elections that DeSantis will likely run in.
Big picture: The bill is an interesting attempt to fight against the influence of partisan media. Brodeur, who is the sole sponsor and supporter of the bill in the Legislature, argues that paid political bloggers are no different from lobbyists who have to obey numerous transparency rules. Critics argue that the bill violates the First Amendment and doesn’t define the difference between a news outlet and a blog clearly enough.