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New Florida law may provide legal test of government’s authority to prohibit politically motivated censorship by social media giants.

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that takes on Big Tech companies in his state. The law, however, is taking criticism — from both right and left — that parts of it may be unconstitutional and that its notable exemptions for some big companies undermine its goal of standing up to domineering industry giants.

Florida’s “Big Tech Bill” aims to protect social media users — whether political candidates, journalistic outlets or ordinary users — from ideologically selective censorship by internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Among its major provisions, the law will:

Fine companies up to $250,000 per day for suspending political candidates from a platform during the run-up to an election

Require platforms to make public the rules they use to regulate their user content and provide users with explanations as to why they have been censored

Require companies to provide users an appeals process or chance to “correct” their flagged content

Prohibit companies from censoring any “journalistic enterprise based on the content of its publication or broadcast.”

Perhaps most importantly, the bill would empower individuals and the office of the Florida attorney general to much more easily sue these companies under the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Yet critics see the law as little more than a symbolic gesture destined to be struck down by the courts on constitutional grounds.

“I see this bill as purely performative: It was never designed to be law but simply to send a message to voters,” Santa Clara University Law School professor Eric Goldman told the Washington Post. He argues that the bill will unconstitutionally restrict the editorial discretion of platforms that act as online publishers — a First Amendment violation.

Kurt Opsahl, the deputy executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told “Just the News AM” that while there’s much legislative work to be done on the subject of internet transparency, it “doesn’t end up being very helpful to pass an unconstitutional bill that is going to be challenged immediately and likely to never go into effect.”

DeSantis is unconcerned with challenges to the constitutionality of the law, according to Amber Athey, Washington Editor of The Spectator, who interviewed the governor after the signing ceremony on Monday.

“He believes this will pass tests on whether it’s unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds because the bill actually avoids anything to do with free speech,” Athey told “Just the News AM.” “He worked with the legislature on this to make it a consumer protection law.”

Others argue the on-the-ground success of the bill is not necessarily the most relevant metric for measuring its efficacy. “There may be, in fact, First Amendment concerns with how it is structured,” acknowledged Rachel Bovard of the Conservative Partnership Institute, but “this is what we see in a lot of cases — states taking action first on key issues on which they want the federal government to move, and so success sometimes isn’t actually the point.”

The bill is a signal that states are growing increasingly “impatient” with the federal government’s failure to act substantively on Big Tech issues, said Bovard. “Consumers are ready for a sea change with how they relate to Big Tech and how the Big Tech companies relate to them,” and this bill is “recognition that these platforms aren’t just speech platforms,” she argued. “They are massive digital advertising firms that are now sort of inextricably intertwined in our politics.”

Athey agrees that the ultimate goal of the legislation may be to coax other states into the legal fray to get the federal government to seriously address tech conglomerates.

“It’s kind of similar to what’s happening with states banding together in the fight against biological men competing in women’s sports,” she said. “If they create this coalition, they’re going to be a lot stronger when they eventually do have to go to court together.”

Beyond the constitutional debate, National Review Online’s Charles Cooke questions the exemptions in the bill. The text of the bill exempts “any information service, system, Internet search engine, or access software provider operated by a company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex.” In the state of Florida, that little carve-out reads as a special favor for the Walt Disney Company and the Comcast Corporation, which own and operate Disney World and Universal Studios, respectively .

The concession to two huge corporations in a bill designed to target businesses with outsized power and influence has irked some, including Cooke, who wonders, “Why is it acceptable for Disney to ‘censor’ its commenters, but not for Twitter to?”

“It’s disappointing to see … that’s exactly the type of government favor-giving that you’re trying to avoid,” Athey agreed. “At the same time, it’s politics,” she said, adding that it’s “likely this was a necessary exemption in order for the bill to be passed in the first place.”

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Donald Trump

Trump: ‘I have not conceded’ 2020 loss; might have ‘different president’ now if not for Pence choice

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On the possibility of being reinstated as president if the 2020 contest is verified as fraudulent, Trump said such a decision would be “up to public” or “perhaps politicians.”

Former President Donald Trump said Monday that he has not conceded the 2020 presidential race, that if the election is proven fraudulent it will be up to the public and “perhaps politicians” to decide how to respond, and that if Mike Pence had sent disputed election results back to state legislatures for review the country “might very well have a different president right now.”

“No, I never admitted defeat,” Trump told Just the News’ “Water Cooler” in an exclusive interview on Real America’s Voice.

“We have a lot of things happening right now … all you have to do is read the newspapers and see what’s coming out now,” he said, adding that he has “not conceded.”

Last week during an interview with conservative commentator Sean Hannity Trump had remarked about the 2020 contest that “shockingly, we were supposed to win easily at 64 million votes and we got 75 million votes and we didn’t win, but let’s see what happens on that.”

Trump told the “The Water Cooler” host David Brody Monday that if the election was tainted by fraud any decision on reinstating him as president would fall to the public or possibly to politicians.

“If the election was fraudulent, people are gonna have to make up their own minds,” he said. “It’s not gonna be up to me. It’s gonna be up to the public. It’s gonna be up to, perhaps, politicians. I don’t think there’s ever been a case like this where hundreds of thousands of votes will be found. So we’ll have to see what happens.”

Trump said that he is “disappointed” that former Vice President Mike Pence did not kick some states’ electoral vote counts back to their state legislatures for review, speculating that if Pence had done so there may have been a different president in office today.

“Well, I’ve always liked Mike, and I’m very disappointed that he didn’t send it back to the legislatures,” he said. “When you have more votes than you have voters in some cases and when you have the kind of things that are, that were known — in many cases they were known then, but they’re certainly getting better and better known now — I was disappointed that he didn’t send it back. I felt he had the right to send it back, and he should’ve sent it back. That’s my opinion. I think you would have found that you might very well have a different president right now had he sent ’em back.”

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Capitol Riots

Virginia couple pleads guilty to misdemeanor in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

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The husband and wife are third, fourth to plead guilty in incident. Over 400 people were charged in connection with the incident.

A Virginia couple has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges related to their actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The couple, Jessica and Joshua Bustle, of Bristow, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to one misdemeanor charge: demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Under a deal with prosecutors, the couple only pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor out of the four charged against them. The charge carries a possible jail sentence of six months and up to $5,000 in fines.

“There’s no guarantee what the sentence will be in this case,” Judge Thomas Hogan told the couple during the hearing.

Hogan also said he will set a sentencing date for them in four to six weeks, according to Politico.

On Jan. 6, Jessica Bustle posted on Facebook: “Pence is a traitor. We stormed the capital. An unarmed peaceful woman down the hall from us was shot in the neck by cops. It’s insane here….Pray for America!!!!”

The couple said they were not originally planning on going to the riot at the capitol but decided to enter the building after they left an anti-vaccination protest they had planned on attending.

They are the third and fourth people, respectively, to plead guilty in relation to the riot.

The first, being Jon Schaffer, a heavy metal guitarist and member of the right-wing militia group the Oath Keepers, in April. While the second person to plead guilty was Paul Hodgkins, a Florida man who went onto the Senate floor during the chaos.

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Arizona Senator: State Lawmakers Prepared to Act on Findings From Election Audit

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The Arizona legislature is ready to take action if the election audit taking place in the state’s largest county uncovers irregularities, a state senator said.

“It’ll be our duty to act in whatever way is appropriate,” Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican who has been closely tracking the audit in Maricopa County, told The Epoch Times.

Auditors, led by Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, started reviewing ballots from the 2020 election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix last month, along with machines used in the contest and other election materials. Auditors expect to finish their work by the end of this month. They will then produce a report outlining what they found.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican who authorized the audit, said last month that she thinks some irregularities will be uncovered.

“I hope we don’t find anything serious. I think we’ll find irregularities that is going to say, you know what, there’s this many dead people voted, or this many who may have voted that don’t live here anymore. We’re going to find those,” she said.

Alexander Kolodin, who formerly represented Cyber Ninjas and remains a lawyer for the Arizona GOP, said in a recent interview that the audit “is going to show that something went wrong, because something goes wrong in every election.”

“I think even Maricopa County would probably admit that the question is, to what degree did it go wrong? Okay, that’s question one. But even that doesn’t tell you so much. It went wrong, and someone caused it to go wrong. The next question is, does the audit tell you who caused it to go wrong?” he said on NTD’s “Wide Angle.”

“If the audit illuminates that there’s [sic] vulnerabilities in X, Y, and Z parts of our election system, state legislatures can target those with a laser beam and fix X, Y, and Z parts of our election system,” he added.

If the audit reveals fraud, then there would be a referral to law enforcement authorities, according to Fann. The Arizona Senate would focus on closing any loopholes in the election system.

Speaking just hours after spokespersons for the audit shot down rumors that hundreds of thousands of ballots were found missing, Rogers said she’s not sure what auditors will uncover.

“As of now we do not know what the results will be,” she said.

The first-term state senator, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, has been keeping close tabs on the audit. She has been a regular presence at the coliseum, consulting with Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and helping lead tours for legislators from other states who want to see what’s happening.

Delegations from over a dozen states, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have visited the audit in recent weeks.

“They want to come in to see what a gold standard forensic audit is and this is a real deep dive into not only counting the ballots, but looking at the machines and interestingly, examining very closely, microscopically if you will, the ballots themselves,” she said. “They have been blown away.”

Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican who toured the coliseum, told The Epoch Times last week that he was impressed by what he saw. He recommended lawmakers from battleground states go to Arizona to tour the facility. Pennsylvania Republicans are pushing for a similar audit in their state, but leadership has not yet decided on whether to order one.

Rogers wanted people to know that Arizonans “are resolute” and “will never quit” on election integrity efforts.

“We will get to the bottom of the truth, not only for truth’s sake, but also to restore election integrity for 2022,” she said.

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