SB 1220 would chill the ability of everyday Floridians from speaking freely
Tallahassee, FL — Today, Florida lawmakers will hold a hearing on SB 1220, legislation that aims to take away the public’s right to speak freely. If passed, the legislation would dramatically change our state’s defamation laws and allow for monetary judgments when elected officials or others think they’ve been slighted on social media or in critical press reports.
To livestream the Senate Committee on Rules hearing, click here.
The following is the prepared testimony of Common Cause Florida Program Director Amy Keith.
“Thank you chair and committee members. Good morning. My name is Amy Keith. I am the program director for Common Cause Florida. We are a nonpartisan, grassroots organization with over 90,000 members across the state who are dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.
I am here to ask you to vote NO on this bill (SB1220).
By doing away with long-held standards of proving malice and with protection of journalists’ anonymous sources, Florida would be inviting frivolous lawsuits that would impact news outlets across the spectrum – liberal, conservative, large national outlets and small local organizations. Such lawsuits could be a death nell for local newspapers and radio stations that Floridians rely on.
Ultimately this would decrease transparency in government for Floridians, with journalists having to think hard about what to report for fear of getting entangled in expensive litigation.
And this bill goes far beyond threatening journalists. This would have a chilling effect on public discourse in Florida more broadly because everyday Floridians could be targeted by a lawsuit for posting controversial takes on social media.
This could silence Floridians who don’t have the financial resources to risk being sued.
Please vote no.”