Gov. DeSantis Orders Facebook Probe for Alleged Violations of Election Laws

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
September 27, 2021 Updated: September 27, 2021

Gov. Ron DeSantis has directed Florida’s secretary of state to open an investigation into whether Facebook violated the state’s election laws through its program that allegedly exempts certain high-profile users from moderation.

The Republican governor in his letter (pdf) to Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee on Monday cited a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report, published earlier this month, that alleges the social media company’s “XCheck” program has given millions of celebrities, politicians and other high-profile users preferential treatment.

These users are exempt from some or all of the Big Tech company’s rules, the WSJ report found, noting that it placed on a “whitelist” certain politicians—but not every candidate.

“While the program included most government officials, it didn’t include all candidates for public office, at times effectively granting incumbents in elections an advantage over challengers,” the WSJ reported. “The discrepancy was most prevalent in state and local races, the documents show, and employees worried Facebook could be subject to accusations of favoritism.”

A Facebook spokesperson told the news outlet that it had addressed the problem.

“It’s no secret that Big Tech censors have long enforced their own rules inconsistently,” DeSantis said in a statement on Monday, directing Lee to probe the matter. “If this new report is true, Facebook has violated Florida law to put its thumb on the scale of numerous state and local races,” he said.

“Floridians deserve to know how much this corporate titan has influenced our elections. That is why I am directing Secretary Lee to use all legal means to uncover violations of Florida’s election laws.”

The Republican governor directed Lee’s office to use all legal means to uncover any violations committed by Facebook, including but not limited to, issuing subpoenas, conducting witness interviews, reviewing all available information, and consulting with law enforcement.

DeSantis added, “The thought of technology companies clandestinely manipulating elections is an affront to the basic principles of our republic. Floridians deserve to have faith that their elections are fair and free from intrusion by Big Tech monopolies like Facebook.”

Facebook didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The governor has long criticized the influence of Big Tech companies. In May, he signed a bill to target social media giants for censorship and issue fines for those that “deplatform” political candidates in the state.

“If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable,” he said in signing SB 7072 earlier this year.

A federal judge has since temporarily blocked the bill. Florida is appealing the judge’s decision to block the legislation.

Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis, told Politico that the governor’s move to probe Facebook has “nothing to do” with SB 7072.

“We do not know where exactly this alleged electioneering occurred, and the scope is known only to Facebook,” Pushaw said. “That’s why Governor DeSantis ordered this investigation. If Facebook’s double standards amounted to interference in state and local races, then Floridians deserve to know the extent.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to DeSantis’ office for additional comment.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.