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PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 11 blasted the Biden administration’s new Disinformation Governance Board’s executive director, Nina Jankowicz, as being “totally off her rocker.”
“She has engaged in misinformation, and she has talked about things like Russia collusion and advocated for Coronavirus, lockdowns, and all these other things,” the Republican governor said of the newly appointed Jankowicz at a press briefing in Lafayette and Gilchrist counties. “They put this person in charge of it who is just totally off her rocker.”
If he could design a caricature of someone “you would want to put in there to scare people,” DeSantis said he “couldn’t draw up anyone any better.”
“So, it’s really troubling,” he said, adding that enforcing censorship through the Disinformation Governance Board is “flatly unconstitutional.”
DeSantis predicted the government is going to determine “what is acceptable, and they are going to expect the social media companies to do their dirty work.”
He said the newly formed government entity, an advisory board of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is “trying to marginalize people who dissent from their orthodoxy.”
“They are going to try to get people canceled,” he told the crowd in Lafayette County. “What they are trying to do is elevate their own political narratives.”
Vowing to continue to be “outspoken” about the disinformation board, DeSantis said he would “push back” if any Floridian was censored for “speaking the truth.”
“In Florida, we will fight back against that because that’s really a threat to the First Amendment.”
He said the government would use social media outlets to “stifle dissent” by claiming they are “private companies.”
“They know that they couldn’t get away with actually enforcing that against us directly from the government,” he said of the bureau. “If this bureau identifies something as disinformation, the expectation is Google and Facebook and Twitter—until Musk gets a hold of it—are going to have to then go and do it.”
However, DeSantis explained that you “cannot subcontract out to a private company’s violations of our Constitution.”
“But when you are doing the government’s bidding as a private corporation, then you are subjected to First Amendment protections for people, and you must abide by the First Amendment,” he said.
DeSantis told the assembled group that the newly formed agency should be disbanded.
“It was a terrible idea, to begin with,” the governor said. “But I do think this is part and parcel of a movement, particularly amongst these folks in Washington. Just try to say there’s only one accepted viewpoint, and if you dissent from that viewpoint, you need to be marginalized on the platform or censored.”
DeSantis said his job in Florida was to “stand up for folks’ right to speak out and to talk about the things that are going wrong” and to “poke holes in some of these ridiculous phony narratives that they’re trying to shove down our throats.”
The pending sale of Twitter to Elon Musk is “telling,” DeSantis said.
“It’s very telling that the people who opposed the Musk takeover are really people that think they should be able to shove their views down our throat without us being able to fight back or to speak out. Those days are going to be over—hopefully with Twitter,” DeSantis said.
In May 2021, DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7072 to hold ‘Big Tech” accountable by “driving transparency and safeguarding Floridians’ ability to access and participate in online platforms.” Afterward, in June 2021, a lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Florida. Judge Robert L. Hinkle blocked the state from enforcing nearly all parts of the law, writing, “Balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not a legitimate governmental interest.”
The State of Florida appealed and is awaiting a ruling from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which DeSantis felt “went very well.” An opinion is pending.
“I think we’re going to end up winning on a lot of those issues,” he said. “Hopefully, what will end up happening—as a Floridian if you are censored or de-platformed from one of these social media sites because of your viewpoint—if you’re discriminating based on viewpoint, you will be able to sue big tech for consumer fraud.”