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Foreign-owned social media platforms could face new Florida restrictions

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(The Center Square) — Foreign-owned social media platforms such as TikTok could face a big change in the Sunshine State if a bill currently being advanced by the Florida Senate gets signed into law.

Senate Bill 1448 is sponsored by state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and would add transparency for social media platforms operating in Florida that are owned by foreign adversaries.

It was passed unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice on Tuesday.

These foreign adversaries would include China, the owner of TikTok, identified by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers as a threat to Florida’s security with the passing of SB 258. The bill blocked TikTok from being used on government and educational devices. TikTok boasts over 1 billion monthly users.

While SB 1448 was introduced to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice, Gruters said that the bill was designed to create a level playing field.

“This bill will address the misinformation and blatant propaganda from foreign adversaries to influence users of all ages while protecting their privacy,” Gruters said. “They must disclose their social media platform’s content, curation, and algorithms if they operate in Florida.”

The bill’s text states that foreign-owned social media platforms must disclose the core functional elements of the platform’s content curation and algorithms. This would include algorithms that interrupt content rankings and visibility, any measures to address misinformation and harmful content, and the targeting of content.

Furthermore, the bill would require that a foreign-owned social media platform operating in Florida would additionally need to make the source code of its algorithms publicly available.

Verification requirements would also be added if the bill passes, which must be implemented for each user and/or organization that purchases political or social advertising.

The verification system must verify key information including citizenship, residency, and the age of the user or individuals that own the organization.

Gruters noted that what the bill would require of foreign-owned platforms is less than what is required of American companies operating in their countries.

“If you’re an American-owned company, you do business in some of these countries, they require the entire source code,” Gruters said. “We’re not requesting that. All we are requiring is that the algorithm be presented.”

The Department of Legal Affairs would be responsible for enforcing penalties, which could result in fines of up to $10,000 for each violation.

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