Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 1220, a bill that makes it easier to sue news outlets for defamation.
The language used in the bill remains overly broad and vague, authorizing defamation lawsuits against journalists, media, and private citizens who speak out online, such as via social media.
Kara Gross, legislative director for the ACLU of Florida, responded to today's hearing with the following:
“This bill only adds to the Governor’s growing track record of pushing forth legislation that suppresses free speech and targets individuals speaking out. Yet again, we’re forced to deal with legislation that does nothing to make Florida better. This is simply a brazen and blatant attack on the press that is intentionally designed to chill, silence and punish those who criticize public officials and their powerful allies.
“Governor DeSantis and his allies seek to consolidate absolute control over what people can and can’t say and are intentionally creating laws like SB 1220 that will suppress free speech and expression, and punish those who dare to speak out truthfully and critically.
“Legislators who support this bill love to tout Florida as a ‘free state,’ but a true free state in our democracy is one in which there is freedom of speech and of the press, where a marketplace of ideas exists. Whether viewpoints or ideas are in line with what politicians believe should not be the criterion.
“This attempt to disincentivize the press and individuals from reporting on matters of public concern by making it easier for public officials to bring frivolous defamation lawsuits raises significant First Amendment concerns.
“The bottom line is public officials should not use their power to abuse the judicial process and deny others their right to speak on matters of public importance.”