Florida Senate - 2019                                    SB 1722
       By Senator Gruters
       23-01128-19                                           20191722__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to social media websites; providing a
    3         short title; defining terms; providing that the owner
    4         or operator of a social media website is subject to a
    5         private right of action by a social media website user
    6         in this state under certain conditions; providing
    7         damages; authorizing the award of reasonable attorney
    8         fees and costs; prohibiting a social media website
    9         from using hate speech as a defense; authorizing the
   10         Attorney General to bring an action on behalf of a
   11         social media website user; providing exceptions for
   12         the deletion or censure of certain types of speech;
   13         providing an effective date.
   15         WHEREAS, this state has a compelling interest in holding
   16  certain social media websites to higher standards for having
   17  substantially created a digital public square, and
   18         WHEREAS, this state has an interest in helping its citizens
   19  enjoy their free exercise of rights in certain semi-public
   20  forums commonly used for religious and political speech, NOW,
   23  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   25         Section 1. This act may be cited as the “Stop Social Media
   26  Censorship Act”.
   27         Section 2. Social media website speech; cause of action;
   28  penalties.—
   29         (1) As used in this section, the term:
   30         (a) “Algorithm” means a set of instructions designed to
   31  perform a specific task.
   32         (b) “Hate speech” means a phrase concerning content that an
   33  individual finds offensive based on his or her personal moral
   34  code.
   35         (c) “Obscene” means that an average person, applying
   36  contemporary community standards, would find that, taken as a
   37  whole, the dominant theme of the material appeals to prurient
   38  interests.
   39         (d) “Political speech” means speech relating to the state,
   40  government, body politic, or public administration as it relates
   41  to governmental policymaking. The term includes speech by the
   42  government or candidates for office and any discussion of social
   43  issues. The term does not include speech concerning the
   44  administration, law, or civil aspects of government.
   45         (e) “Religious speech” means a set of unproven answers,
   46  truth claims, faith-based assumptions, and naked assertions that
   47  attempt to explain such greater questions as how the world was
   48  created, what constitutes right and wrong actions by humans, and
   49  what happens after death.
   50         (f) “Social media website” means an Internet website or
   51  application that enables users to communicate with each other by
   52  posting information, comments, messages, or images and that
   53  meets all of the following requirements:
   54         1. Is open to the public;
   55         2. Has more than 75 million subscribers; and
   56         3. From its inception, has not been specifically affiliated
   57  with any one religion or political party.
   58         (2)(a) The owner or operator of a social media website who
   59  contracts with a social media website user in this state is
   60  subject to a private right of action by such user if the social
   61  media website purposely:
   62         1. Deletes or censors the user’s religious speech or
   63  political speech; or
   64         2. Uses an algorithm to disfavor or censure the user’s
   65  religious speech or political speech.
   66         (b)A social media website user may be awarded all of the
   67  following damages under this section:
   68         1. A minimum of $75,000 in statutory damages per purposeful
   69  deletion or censoring of the social media website user’s speech.
   70         2. Actual damages.
   71         3. If aggravating factors are present, punitive damages.
   72         4. Other forms of equitable relief.
   73         (c) The prevailing party in a cause of action under this
   74  section may be awarded costs and reasonable attorney fees.
   75         (d) A social media website that restores from deletion or
   76  removes the censoring of a social media website user’s speech in
   77  a reasonable amount of time may use that fact to mitigate any
   78  damages.
   79         (3) A social media website may not use the social media
   80  website user’s alleged hate speech as a basis for justification
   81  or defense of the social media website’s actions at trial.
   82         (4)The Attorney General may also bring a civil cause of
   83  action under this section on behalf of a social media website
   84  user who resides in this state and whose religious speech or
   85  political speech has been censored by a social media website.
   86         (5) This section does not apply to any of the following:
   87         (a) A social media website that deletes or censors a social
   88  media website user’s speech or that uses an algorithm to
   89  disfavor or censure speech that:
   90         1. Calls for immediate acts of violence;
   91         2. Is obscene or pornographic in nature;
   92         3. Is the result of operational error;
   93         4. Is the result of a court order;
   94         5. Comes from an inauthentic source or involves false
   95  impersonation;
   96         6. Entices criminal conduct; or
   97         7. Involves minors bullying minors.
   98         (b) A social media website user’s censoring of another
   99  social media website user’s speech.
  100         (6) Only users who are 18 years of age or older have
  101  standing to seek enforcement of this act.
  102         Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2019.