Standing in front of a large American flag an event Promotes civic education “on subjects such as the rights and duties of citizens … and also in understanding the philosophical underpinnings of the American republic,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made a case for abolishing freedom of the press.
He supports Florida House Bill 991DeSantis explained in his plan to facilitate Maybe sue journalists for defamation most controversial by changing the legal status of anonymous procurement. “If someone is being defamed… if [the journalist is] Using anonymous sources, this may be a guess that this was done with malice,” DeSantis said Thursday. “I think what happened is that corporate media in particular relied on anonymous sources to frame people.”
But don’t worry, discouraging HB 991 from sourcing anonymously “won’t make much of a difference in terms of freedom of expression,” DeSantis added. It will merely “make some people not put out things that are wrong, that tarnish someone’s reputation”.
Of course it will also cause Some people don’t want to post things that are true but unflattering to — or implying — public figures like DeSantis the obvious case that anonymous sourcing proves correct, President Richard Nixon.
This bill isn’t all bad, and there’s fair criticism of the over-reliance on anonymous sources when it comes to trivial matters. But all in all, this bill is an assault on press freedom, and his endorsement by DeSantis suggests there isn’t much daylight between him and his alleged chief rival, former President Donald Trump, on a key constitutional matter.
HB 991 is appropriate in a way. For example, it offers that You don’t become a public figure by giving an interview to the press; to “defend publicly against allegations”; be the subject of a viral video or photo; or holding “public employment other than elected office or appointment by an elected official.”
In other words, being a teacher or a DMV employee does not make you a public figure. Let’s not say that “Central Park Karen” or the “nobody has time for that“Woman. In a libel lawsuit, HB 991 says that without any other kind of fame — any willful entry into public life, such as cultivation of fame or running for office — these people should be treated as private individuals who enjoy a stronger standard of reputation protection.
I’m not sure if this distinction is correct Exactly as written. Protecting people who give a man-in-the-street interview or involuntarily become viral memes makes sense, but police officers strike me as public servants who, because of their unique role, which includes proprietary application heard of violence as public figures should be treated. some critics also argued HB 991’s demarcation could violate Supreme Court precedent. Still, the underlying idea – to specify what it means to be a public figure in a digital age where sudden, unwanted notoriety is possible in ways that have not been the case in the recent past – seems fair .
It’s also fair to say that the media sometimes goes overboard with anonymous sourcing. I thought so myself, particularly during the Trump administration, when comments from unnamed “people close to the President” were regularly the basis for high-profile but objectively low-brow reporting of White House personal drama, mostly telling us, knew what we said before: that Trump was petty, sneaky and ill-equipped for office. A story doesn’t have to reach Watergate’s prominence to justify reliance on sources who don’t consent to being credited, but that hardly means every snippet of anonymous gossip deserves publication.
And yet, as always when fundamental individual rights are at stake, there is – or should be – a yawning gap between them this is a foolish or careless or risky way of exercising this right And we should make this functionally illegalwhich HB 991 almost does with anonymous sourcing.
That’s not the only problem with the bill either. Its determination is a “claim that the Complainant discriminated against another person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” automatically enough for a libel lawsuit is similarly troubling because of its likely impact on freedom of expression.
Likewise, the mention of “any presentation before an audience” or “statement on the Internet” as a basis for cases of defamation. As a New York Times editorial notes, which could respectively mean “testimony at school board hearings and other public gatherings” or “a tweet or Facebook post written by anyone.” It’s not as bad as in the UK charge of “grossly offensive” tweets, but it’s a step in that direction of public speaking.
It’s also a step in the direction Trump wants to go. “One of the things I will do if I win,” he said said in 2016“I’m going to open up our defamation laws so we can sue them and win big bucks if they intentionally write negative and horrible and false articles.”
The was always a pipe dream, since the relevant laws, such as HB 991 itself, are largely determined at the state level and therefore do not fall within the purview of the President. But the animosity that underpins the threat and Trump’s ability to do so as president restrict freedom of the press with tools that are also used below the Obama And Biden administrationsis pretty real.
That animosity is apparently something DeSantis shares. If elected president, he may resort to the same anti-press tools of surveillance and suppression of dissent. And in the meantime, as governor, he could “open” Florida’s libel laws and do in real life what Trump only imagined.