Florida Legislator Proposes a State Registry for Bloggers

There is a deeply disturbing legislative proposal in Florida where Sen. Jason Brodeur of Lake Mary has called for bloggers to register with the state if they want to write about the state’s governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members or legislative officials. It is a highly intrusive, dangerous, and presumptively unconstitutional effort. Yet, it is also important to note that this is just a proposal from a single legislator with little real chance of passage. What I find interesting is the historical underpinnings of such a law. The comparison is not favorable for Sen. Brodeur.

The bill would require bloggers to file periodic reports with the state if they are paid for posts about the state’s governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members or legislative officials. They could be fined $25 for each day the report is late, up to a maximum of $2,500 for each report. The legislation would exempt content on “the website of a newspaper or other similar publication.”

It is a vague and unnecessary law. In a Twitter post, Brodeur explained that he simply wants to bring greater transparency to blogs that advocate or lobby for specific causes. He notes that it is directed at those who are paid to write about elected officials in Florida.

In fairness to Sen. Brodeur, there are requirements for media to obtain press credentials to get full access to press areas in the federal or state capitals. However, the requirements are minimal and press can always cover events without such credentials by using public access.

Moreover, bloggers cover a wide range of speech and speakers. Blogs are part of the new media with a wide array of people covering or opining on contemporary events. It can range from the popular “citizen journalist” to minor “influencers” to satirical writers. Many blogs are now quite large and rival traditional newspapers or media outlets. They are a new and critical component in our free speech community.  Many look to blogs as an alternative to what they see as a biased mainstream media.

I understand Brodeur’s motivation and his concern for bloggers who hide paid agendas or serve as surrogates for others. However, this is a really bad idea and it is not a new idea.

At the creation of our Republic, free press advocates like Thomas Paine were focused on state licensing laws that were abused in England by the Crown to control the media.

The licensing laws became a rallying cause in 1644 for many after John Milton wrote his famous pamphlet Areopagitica. Milton objected to the requirement of prior licensing of writers with the Crown, objecting that “debtors and delinquents may walk abroad without a keeper, but unoffensive books must not stir forth without a visible jailer in their title.” The licensing law ended in 1694. It was a defining moment of press freedom in fighting the need to secure permission to publish. Figures like Thomas Paine wrote against prior restraints and licensing systems as the core threats to free speech and the free press.

The Florida proposal would return us to mandatory licensing or registry as a prerequisite for free speech or the free press. I have no reason to assume that Sen. Brodeur has nefarious or authoritarian motives in this ill-conceived effort. However, he is on the wrong side of history in proposing a registry and should withdraw his bill.


67 thoughts on “Florida Legislator Proposes a State Registry for Bloggers”

  1. Dictionaries exist for a reason. The bill should be addressing lobbying and not journalism. The act of influencing the legislative or executive branch requires oversight. The act of communicating one’s beliefs does not.

    The recent failure of Silicon Valley Bank is a clear example of lobbying gone bad. I believe a first step is to change the definition of “lobbying” to include direct and indirect communication(s) to influence the executive and legislative branches. Additionally, eliminate the expensing of “lobbying”.

    Free speech is never a problem.

  2. Like you shouldn’t pay more taxes than the system calls for…..but the system calls for every tax preparer to get a licences first. ….so that no one can challenge the “man”. A self fulfilling prophesy from the gate! How unamerican!

  3. Give the government the power to charge “bloggers to file periodic reports with the state if they are paid for posts” and you give the government the right to investigate for compliance, thereby subjecting every blogger to investigation.

  4. He must be an absolute screwball who dropped out of school in 3rd Grade. Just because Florida has become popular, it doesn’t mean that we attract and hold the smartest folks in the country. This guy belongs in Biden’s White House.

  5. Jonathan: Here’s another topic you probably won’t discuss. The DOJ has just filed and interesting brief with the DC Court of Appeals in the civil case brought by Capitol police and others who were injured during the Jan. 6 insurrection. In that case Trump is claiming “absolute immunity” under 28 USC Section 1442(a). The DOJ brief says Trump can’t claim “absolute immunity” because presidential speech “does not include incitement of imminent private violence of the sort the district court found that plaintiffs’ complaint have plausibly alleged here”.

    Why is the DOJ’s brief important? Special Counsel Jack Smith is hot on the trail of Trump’s crimes. He no doubt had a long conversation with AG Garland that probably went something like this: “Mr. Attorney General, if Trump were successful in his claim of ‘absolute immunity’ in the civil case that would make it more difficult for me to charge him–not to mention the criminal case in Georgia. So I think it is imperative we file a brief in the civil case”. AG Garland obviously agreed.

    So the implications of the DOJ filing are significant. If the DC Court of Appeals rules against Trump in the civil case it will make it difficult for him to assert the same “absolute immunity” defense in either of the cases brought by Smith or the criminal case in Georgia where Trump is seeking to remove that case to federal court. I doubt Smith would intervene in the DC civil case if he didn’t intend to charge Trump. So watch the civil case and how the DC Court of Appeals Court rules. If Trump loses his claim of “absolute immunity” this will open the floodgates for criminal charges by Jack Smith and Fani Willis. Finally, at long last, Trump may not be able to escape justice!

    1. I’ll be watching all that and the fact McConnell relies on the capital police for his own protection! So of course he’s going to take sides with the capitol police…..who give him day to day protection! Which Makes it even more likely…..this was an inside job! Who are the capitol police? The Swiss who took us over? Who are they? The capitol police? I heard they were the Swiss guard….could be rumor? Could be true….McConnell doesn’t want to cross them! Lajes86 545499a!

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