Florida Lawmakers Remove Big Tech Exemption for Theme Parks, Disney

By Lydia Nusbaum, Florida's Voice

April 21, 2022 Updated 2:46 PM ET

theme parks

April 21, 2022 Updated 2:46 P.M. ET

TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – The Florida legislature passed a bill Thursday that removes Walt Disney Company’s exemption from a Florida law that aims to hold Big Tech accountable. 

The Florida House approved the bill 70 to 38 amid chaos and yelling from Democrats who protested the redistricting bill lawmakers passed minutes prior to that vote. State Senators approved the bill 24 to 15 Wednesday. 

Florida lawmakers passed legislation (S.B. 7072) in 2021 that requires social media companies to be transparent about their content moderation practices and attempts to stop companies from more easily silencing viewpoints on social media. 

Under the law, technology companies cannot de-platform Floridian political candidates and Floridians can sue if social media companies violate the law. 

Last year, lawmakers made a last-minute change to exempt “a company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex,” giving Disney and other theme park companies a carve-out. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis made a last-minute decision to add stripping the exemption status to the Special Session addressing redistricting this week.

“This is a good bill that should not be controversial. We’re removing an exemption that troubled many in this chamber,” Republican state Senator Jennifer Bradley said Wednesday. “Our legislative intent is that this bill applies to all equally. I have a hard time understanding why that would be a controversial issue.”

Some Democrats consider the bill retaliatory since the exemption-stripping bill comes after Disney spoke out against the Parental Rights in Education Law. 

That move from Disney prompted Governor Ron DeSantis to urge lawmakers to strip Disney of its self-governing district. The Florida Senate also voted Wednesday to take away those special powers. 

“Free speech. Free speech. We keep trampling all over the greatest form of government,” Democrat State Senator Gary Farmer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Punitive, petulant, political payback. That’s not how you’re supposed to govern.”

Under the 2021 Big Tech law, Florida Election Commission will fine a social media company $250,000 per day for de-platforming any candidate for statewide office and $25,000 per day for the de-platforming candidates for non-statewide offices. 

A federal judge temporarily stopped Florida from implementing the Big Tech law. 

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