Florida Gov. DeSantis slams Big Tech, argues censorship is 'doing damage to society'
DeSantis says Big Tech are 'monopolies' that control a 'huge percentage of the political speech in this country'
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis slammed Big Tech during an exclusive interview on "Sunday Morning Futures," arguing that their censorship is "doing damage to society."
"When they are censoring things about some of the most important issues that we have ever addressed - how COVID started, whether lockdowns work - they’re really doing damage to society," the Florida governor told host Maria Bartiromo Sunday.
DeSantis made the comments one week after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appeared on the program arguing that "it now is clear" Facebook was "utilizing their monopoly position to censor on behalf of the government," regarding information related to COVID-19 and its origins.
Cruz's comment was in response to Facebook's May 26 statement addressing that it would no longer ban posts suggesting COVID-19 is man-made amid mounting calls from President Biden and other officials for further investigation into the pandemic’s origins.
The announcement marked a reversal for the social media giant. In February, Facebook said it would remove posts claiming the virus was man-made or manufactured "following consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization" who had "debunked" the claim.
A Facebook spokesperson did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment to Cruz’s statements.
However, in a statement late last month a Facebook spokesperson said, "In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps."
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"We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge," the statement continued.
On Sunday, Bartiromo pointed to Cruz’s previous statements on the program, when he argued that Facebook could be exposed to legal action.
"These latest breakthroughs have real consequence because it now is clear that Facebook was operating at the direction of and in the direct benefit of the federal government and operating as the government's censor, utilizing their monopoly position to censor on behalf of the government," Cruz told Bartiromo last Sunday.
He then called it "a very dangerous admission that is now out there for Facebook," explaining that there could be legal ramifications from anybody "whose speech was censored by Facebook" on the topic.
Bartiromo asked DeSantis on Sunday if he believes top government epidemiologist Anthony Fauci "colluded with" Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and if Facebook could face legal action as Cruz had claimed.
DeSantis responded by saying that Facebook had called the lab-leak theory "a conspiracy theory," adding that around the same time last year, Facebook was also censoring "any criticisms of lockdowns, and we know now lockdowns didn’t work."
"States like Florida that were open were better off for it," he continued.
He went on to say that "you often hear people say, ‘Hey, these are private companies, they can do what they want, yadda, yadda, yadda — but here’s an example of working with Fauci where Facebook you could argue is essentially acting as an arm of the state because they are suppressing what the government wants suppressed — and so I think this issue with Big tech is unlike anything we’ve seen."
DeSantis noted that Big Tech has "massive amounts of power" and are "monopolies" that "control, in effect, a handful of companies [and] a huge percentage of the political speech in this country."
"And so I think when you have situations [in which] they are not just censoring based on partisanship --- obviously we have seen conservatives be censored — but when they are censoring things about some of the most important issues that we have ever addressed … you know they’re really doing damage to society," he stressed.
A Facebook spokesperson also did not respond to FOX Business’ request for comment to DeSantis’ statements made Sunday.
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. James Comer R-Ky., penned a letter to Zuckerberg questioning the platform’s content moderation on the origins of COVID-19.
The letter, obtained exclusively by FOX Business last week, demands the social media giant hands over emails between Zuckerberg and government officials, including Fauci.
Facebook and other social media platforms have faced pressure from both sides of the aisle regarding their COVID-19 content policies. Democratic lawmakers have pressed platforms to crack down on the spread of misinformation, while Republicans have accused the companies of stifling open debate, including discussions on the lab leak theory.
Bartiromo asked DeSantis if Florida is "considering legal actions against Facebook."
He responded by saying that the state is already involved in multi-state litigation that predated the recent revelations, adding that he would "support any way that we can vindicate the rights of individual Floridians to be able to converse about public issues."
DeSantis subsequently mentioned the bill he signed last month, which he said will protect state residents’ ability to access and participate in social media platforms.
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The Big Tech Bill, as DeSantis calls it, also allows residents to fight back against de-platforming and censorship, permitting them to sue tech companies for up to $100,000 in damages for each proven claim in a bid to ensure companies are more transparent about their content moderation practices.
The law requires companies to detail how they reach conclusions about content moderation and stick to those standards consistently, DeSantis said during a press conference last month.
On Sunday, he referred to the bill as "the first of its kind."
He pointed out that Big Tech companies have argued that they are not publishers and are "advertising as an open platform," but are then "acting as publishers by stifling speech" they "don’t like."
"That’s a fraud on the consumer, and people deserve to be able to vindicate their rights in court," DeSantis concluded.
Fox Business’ Brittany De Lea, Kristen Altus, Thomas Barrabi and Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.