Florida Governor Ron DeSantis intends to shred both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions with his Big Tech regulations.
Last week, I wrote an article about Ron DeSantis who, like the rest of the Republican Party, has embraced an anti-free speech platform as part of his potential run for president in 2024. This is bad news because, as we all know, Trumpism is forever. But it’s worse news when we remember that Trump and his Republican Party are enemies of the Constitution and our God-given rights.
In that spirit, I’m taking this opportunity to introduce you to a new guest contributor, John J. Baeza. John is a Florida resident and a teacher of the Constitution, and he shows us how Ron DeSantis’ attack on Big Tech shreds both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis intends to violate both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions with new legislation regulating Facebook, Google and Twitter.
If DeSantis signs this legislation into law, he will be violating the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution as written in Article 1, Section 10, Clause 1 and the Florida Constitution’s Declaration of Free Speech in the Declaration of Rights, Article 1, Section 4. See the wording below for both Constitutions:
United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 10, Clause 1:
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
Florida Constitution Declaration of Rights Article 1:
SECTION 4. Freedom of speech and press.—Every person may speak, write and publish sentiments on all subjects but shall be responsible for the abuse of that right. No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press. In all criminal prosecutions and civil actions for defamation the truth may be given in evidence. If the matter charged as defamatory is true and was published with good motives, the party shall be acquitted or exonerated.
History.—Am. proposed by Constitution Revision Commission, Revision No. 13, 1998, filed with the Secretary of State May 5, 1998; adopted 1998.
The Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not permit the state governments to impair contracts between private individuals or companies. Big Tech is large and does censor people, including the great Ron Paul and The Strident Conservative, but we must set aside our emotions and dissect what the Governor intends to do in the state of Florida.
DeSantis wants to retrospectively re-write terms of agreement that every big tech user must agree to in order to utilize their services. Although no money is involved, this is clearly a contract between two parties. And Big Tech, while onerous, is comprised of private companies.
Some call Big Tech a monopoly, but this is false. Some call for the elimination of Section 230 and the creation of a Fairness Doctrine for the internet, but that could be a really bad idea. While I commend any removal of statutes as a good thing, an argument could be made that doing so would impair Big Tech’s ability to post user content. So, I’ll leave that discussion for another day.
The idea that Governor DeSantis intends to ignore the U.S. Constitution and interfere with and/or regulate free speech is clear. And as Judge Andrew Napolitano points on in a post on LewRockwell.com, the First Amendment makes no provision for the Florida governor’s assault on Big Tech:
The speech we love needs no protection. The speech we hate does. The government has no authority to evaluate speech. As the framers understood, all people have a natural right to think as we wish and to say and publish whatever we think. Even hateful, hurtful and harmful speech is protected speech.
Yet, in perilous times, such as the present, we have seen efforts to use the courts to block the publication of unflattering books. We have seen state governors use the police to protect gatherings of protestors with whose message they agreed and to disburse critical protestors. We have seen mobs silence speakers while the police did nothing.
And in perilous times, such as the present, we have seen Big Tech companies silencing their opponents. I hate when they do that, but they have every right to do so. They own the bulletin board. Twitter and Facebook can ban any speech they want because they are not the government. And the First Amendment only restrains the government. In the constitutional sense, free speech means only one thing — free from government interference.
Punishing speech is the most dangerous business because there will be no end. The remedy for hateful or threatening speech is not silence or punishments; it is more speech — speech that challenges the speaker.
Why do government officials want to silence their opponents? They fear an undermining of their power. The dissenters might make more appealing arguments than they do. St. Augustine taught that nearly all in government want to tell others how to live.
How about we all say whatever we want and the government leaves us alone?
Governor DeSantis’ grandstanding is a slap in the face to those who believe in liberty, limited government, and free markets. Pushing aside the incorrectly applied incorporation doctrine, the first eight amendments in the Bill of Rights don’t apply to the states which is why states have their own constitutions.
With his proposed legislation, Governor DeSantis is infringing on the Florida Constitution’s Freedom of Speech: “No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”
Big Tech are also big earners for the state of Florida to the tune of 3.1 billion dollars last year. DeSantis has conveniently forgotten this fact.
In the end, the Governor of Florida, whose duty it is to protect Floridian’s rights, is shredding both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions. His desire for higher office and his unwavering support for President Trump has blinded and crippled him as a protector of liberty.
Floridians and Americans deserve better.
John J. Baeza is a former New York State Correction Officer and a retired NYPD Officer and Detective. He served as Director of Security for the presidential campaigns of Ron Paul in 2012 and Rand Paul in 2016.
He has studied the U.S. and Florida Constitutions, and he has taught classes about the U.S. Constitution across the State of Florida.
John is currently a police procedures expert witness at NYPDTRUTH.COM where he consults on homicides, sexual assaults, police shootings and misconduct, and other criminal cases.