“Insane.” That’s how GOP firebrand and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich summed up a new proposal in Florida that would force bloggers, who write about elected officials, to register with the state.
“The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane,” Gingrich wrote on Twitter. “It is an embarrassment that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediately.”
If passed, bloggers would have to disclose who paid them and how much, and provide other information such as where the post is located online. They would be subject to a $25 fine per each day the report is late, up to a maximum of $2,500 for each report. The proposed legislation would not apply to content on “the website of a newspaper or other similar publication.”
Russell Cormican, a Fort Lauderdale First Amendment attorney, also blasted the bill.
“This is the most patently unconstitutional piece of legislation I have seen in quite some time. In our country, speech about political issues receives the highest level of protection under the First Amendment,” he said. “It is literally the cornerstone to our democracy. The idea that a person would need to pre-register with the government before speaking about political issues is absurd.”
Cormican is confident the law would not survive a court challenge saying “the Courts will almost certainly strike it down.”
The controversial bill was introduced by Florida State Senator Jason Brodeur. Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday he does not support the bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida slammed the bill as well.
“This is a clear violation of the First Amendment because it strongly discourages bloggers from speaking on politics – one of the most critical types of speech for maintaining a democracy,” the group said in a statement. "The First Amendment protects the right to share ideas, including a person's right to share information and knowledge. It also protects our right to learn and read free from viewpoint-based censorship. The U.S. Constitution demands that we transcend such callous political agendas and instead promote the value of freedom of expression. This bill is un-American to its core."
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