While looking over the news flow this last week, an article popped up that just seemed too bizarre to be true. It said that a Florida State Senator by the name of Jason Brodeur introduced a bill that would require all bloggers who write about elected officials to register with the government.
Florida Senate Bill 1316 added a new section to its law regarding public notice publication, with rules and regulations requiring bloggers to register with the state, file timely reports, and fines for those who do not file in a timely fashion.
When this blogger read this, it was hard to believe that a government entity would issue such a bill in such an up-front fashion, stating that if you write about an elected official in the State of Florida, you need to register with the government for that right.
But it’s true, a Senator in the State of Florida, a state part of the United States that’s sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and its amendments, has put out a bill that would limit the voice of independent media in reporting on the actions of its government.
While it’s been universally declared unconstitutional by anyone who knows about media law, it’s important to look at the details of this bill to know who and what’s targeted.
The first part is who. The bill states a blogger is any person that submits a blog post to a blog that is subsequently published. Later in the bill, it differentiates that the blogger’s compensated for their work. It then links all that up and says that bloggers paid for their work are most likely playing the role of lobbyists when it comes to the material they publish.
Therefore, any blog could be subject to this potential law. Even those, like this blog, whom the owner of it gets no compensation, but pays for the website address and the technical needs of maintaining the blog.
The second part is what is being targeted, and that is a much simpler one – independent media. As part of the bill, it provides a carve-out for any newspaper or other similar publications website from the law. So, technically, an established media website, like a TV station whose talent is also able to blog, is excluded from being registered under this bill.
Translate this bill to what it would look like in Hawaii, it could seriously decimate anything approaching independent media. From Civil Beat to Think Tech Hawaii may be a target. This blog could be included based on the definitions presented. It’s a bill that would monopolize the sources of information to that of established media, and silence, except for the most dedicated (and potentially the better well-off) to try and promote an independent voice in Hawaii.
As for why any legislator anywhere in the United States would put out such a bill. From a statement, Senator Brodeur made to “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?”
But at least the article went deeper as to potential intention, stating in the last paragraph that the Senator has been the subject of frequent criticism by the media when he ran for Florida Senate in 2020.
Regardless, to this blogger, whether you like how something’s portrayed in the media does not give any elected official or bureaucrat the right to limit it. It’s a violation to limit the voices of those in independent media. Furthermore, it’s bad for Florida to allow a bill like this to see the light of day, and it would be equally as bad for any legislator in Hawaii to think they could introduce something similar.
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