Political bloggers in Florida could be forced to register or face fines

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Political bloggers in Florida could be forced to register with the state – or face fines.

A Bill filed by senator Jason Brodeur would require bloggers to file periodic reports if they are paid for posts about the state’s governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members or legislative officials.

They would have to disclose who paid them and how much, along with information such as where the post is located online.

They would be fined 25 dollars (£20.80) each day the report is late, up to 2,500 dollars (£2,080) for each report.

The legislation would not apply to content on “the website of a newspaper or other similar publication”.

The proposal, filed last week, has already begun to draw criticism from first amendment groups, which argue it violates press freedoms.

“The only thing that I can see is that it’s an attempt to limit and control free speech,” said Bobby Block, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation.

“It’s an attempt to bring critics to heel and it’s an attempt to make sure that people who want to talk about you think real hard before they do so.”

It is unclear how far the proposal will go in the GOP-controlled statehouse during the upcoming legislative session, which begins on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contacted Mr Brodeur as well as Republican leaders of the House and Senate and a spokesman for governor Ron DeSantis for comment.

In a Twitter post, Mr Brodeur said the Bill is aimed at bringing transparency to blogs that advocate or lobby for specific causes.

The text of his Bill says it would apply to any blogger who is paid to write about elected officials in Florida.

“Do you want to know the truth about the so-called ‘blogger’ bill?” Mr Brodeur’s post reads.

“It brings the current pay-to-play scheme to light and gives voters clarity as to who is influencing their elected officials, JUST LIKE how we treat lobbyists. It’s an electioneering issue, not a free speech issue.”

Mr Brodeur is also sponsoring a separate Bill that would make it easier to sue the media for defamation, a proposal pushed by Mr DeSantis, a Republican.

Mr DeSantis has made criticising the media a major facet of his national profile as he gears up for an expected 2024 presidential run, employing a tactic popular with Republicans who view news outlets as biased against conservatives.

A spokesman for the governor said his office was not aware of the blogger registration legislation until it was filed. He said the governor will consider the Bill in its final form if and when it passes the legislature.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has slammed the proposal as “un-American to its core”.

“This is a clear violation of the first amendment because it strongly discourages bloggers from speaking on politics – one of the most critical types of speech for maintaining a democracy,” the group said.

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